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Lewis Meriwether Dabney 


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Copyright, 1924 
S. H. Dabney 

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Printed in the United States of America by 


Grateful acknowledgment is made to 
Fontaine Carrington Weems for 
his assistance in editing this volume. 


Thoughtless of self and careless of fame, Lewis 
Meriwether Dabney preserved few documents per- 
taining to his life and activities. Many of his papers 
are lost and much of his best work is unrecorded. 
His vivid personality and his noble character must 
therefore speak for themselves through such letters 
as his friends have fortunately preserved, supple- 
mented by the few papers and addresses which remain. 

His career was that of a busy professional man 
and private citizen, deeply interested in everything 
making for the good of his city, state and country, 
but modest and reserved, he scorned publicity, and 
what he did he preferred to do quietly. None the less, 
he was a highly effective public servant. 

He had a mind stored with the best in ancient and 
modern literature, a joyous and generous nature, 
a heart sympathetically interested in everything hu- 
man, and a gift for friendship that made him 
greatly beloved and widely influential. He was a bril- 
liant and instructive talker, writer and speaker, dis- 
tinguished by a wit that could burn with sarcasm or 
scintillate with humor. Disliking public appearances, 
although frequently in demand, and preferring the 
circle of his friends he spoke in public only when 
some great crisis called him. He loved the quiet life 

viii Foreword 

of the scholar in his library, and was at his best in 
private conference in his office or in the company of 
his friends. There he shone as few men have done. 
It is a profound gratification to his brothers that 
this memorial of affection has been prepared by his 
wife ; and we believe that all who knew and loved him 
will be happy to have it and that those who come 
after him will be ennobled by his example. 

Charles William Dabney. 


The purpose of this memoir is to preserve for the 
children and grandchildren of Lewis Meriwether 
Dabney a record of his life, his character, and his 

Born in Virginia at the end of the old order whose 
ideals were states rights and individualism, he lived 
through a transition period when this nation was al- 
most revolutionized and socialized by German thought 
and tendencies. And he witnessed in the lesson of 
the World War the reaction from this menace and a 
growing distrust of centralized and socialistic gov- 

Himself a strong individualist and conservative, he 
believed in a republican representative government as 
developed by the Anglo-Saxon races. He believed in 
a suffrage limited by intelligence and small property 
rights. He believed in the development of leadership 
by careful selection and training from all classes of 
society. He believed that man was a free agent, 
responsible to God directly, and that Eighteenth Cen- 
tury atheism was the father of our modern democracy, 
or, in the words used by the Prince de Ligne during 
the French Revolution: "God being the First Aristo- 
crat, was the first to be dethroned." 

These views, which he steadfastly held throughout 

x Introduction 

his life, were unpopular for a large part of that time, 
but he lived to see many of them justified. The ten- 
dencies of our government which he foresaw many 
years ago are now more clearly perceived. An ever 
larger group of thinking men realize, as he did, that 
the tyranny of the unthinking masses over the think- 
ing minority is a more hopeless tyranny than that of 
the autocrat which the oppressed masses can always 
shake off by virtue of their majority. 

The roots of his being deep down in the traditions 
of Virginia, his hopes and ambitions flowering in the 
West, he lived in two civilizations, modified and in- 
fluenced by both. Independence of thought, steadfast 
adherence to the truth as he saw it, and an abiding 
belief in the freedom of man's soul were his distin- 
guishing characteristics. The letters and addresses 
published in this volume give in his own words his 
views as to the duty of every man to his country, to 
his God, and to posterity. This memoir is prepared 
with the hope that his children and grandchildren will 
be inspired to carry on his ideals and to keep the faith 
which he has handed down to them with the same 
fearlessness, integrity, and devotion to duty. 

Stella Hutcheson Dabney. 



Foreword v . vii 

Introduction . ix 


I Inherited Traditions and Early Life ... I 

II Early Letters (1893-1910) 35 

III Letters (1913-1915) 72 

IV The Mexican Crisis and the World War ( 1916- 

1917) io 4 

V The War Period (1917-1918) ...... 136 

VI Letters (1919-1923) 193 


I The Homestead Law 249 

II The New Tyranny 260 

III Resolutions * 269 


Lewis Meriwether Dabney, 1923 .... Frontispiece 


Dr. Robert Lewis Dabney 4 

Lavinia Morrison Dabney 6 

Birthplace of Lewis Meriwether Dabney 10 

Lewis Dabney at Twenty-three 20 

Lewis Dabney at Twenty-eight 38 

The Dabney Home, Dallas, Texas . 120 

An Autograph Letter . 154 


Please do not write in this 
book or turn cfown the jpa^s 




The spring of the year 1865 saw the close of one of 
the great chapters in our national history; the end of 
the Civil War, the surrender of the exhausted South, 
and the utter prostration of that part of it which had 
been for four years the battlefield. 

In this same year Lewis Meriwether Dabney was 
born at Hampden-Sidney, Prince Edward County, 
Virginia, into a world that was literally upside down. 
Realizing that what a man is is determined long before 
the hour of his birth, and that the influences which 
make him form an important part of the study of a 
man's character, it seems well to trace here those 
influences and circumstances. 

The College of Hampden-Sidney situated in the vil- 
lage of the same name, was founded in the year 1776. 
Among its incorporators were Patrick Henry, James 
Madison, Nathaniel Venable, Paul Carrington, Wil- 
liam Cabell, and other famous Virginians, and its his- 
tory was closely bound up with the history of the State. 
It had been for nearly a century the Alma Mater of 
many of the foremost men of Virginia and especially of 
the planters of the large area called The Southside, 

2 A Memoir and Letters 

embracing one-third of the State. These planters 
sent their sons to Hampden-Sidney College from prep- 
atory schools fashioned on the old English models in 
which the rod formed an important part of the disci- 
pline. In this old historic college these young Virgin- 
ians were taught mathematics, physics, Greek, and 
Latin and acquired the taste for classic literature which 
was characteristic of a Southern gentleman before the 
Civil War. 

Besides the college there was in the little village of 
Hampden-Sidney another historic institution, Union 
Theological Seminary, where Lewis Dabney's father, 
Robert Lewis Dabney, D.D., L.L.D., held the chair 
of Systematic and Polemic Theology. 

The Dabney family was of Huguenot descent and 
was said to have fled to England at the time of the 
revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and from 
there emigrated to America. Dr. Dabney was sixth in 
line from Cornelius D'Aubigne, one of three brothers 
who came to this country about the year 171 7. One 
brother, Robert, settled in Boston and is the ancestor 
of the Boston branch of the family. Two other 
brothers, John and Cornelius D'Aubigne, came to Vir- 
ginia and settled in King William County on the York 
River. Grants of land in Virginia are recorded in the 
name of Cornelius D'Aubigne, De Baney, Dabeney, 
and finally Dabney, showing the evolution of the name. 

Dr. Thomas C. Johnson, author of the "Life and 
Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney," says in connection 
with the family genealogy: — "Whatever may be said 
of their claim of descent from Theodore Agrippe 

Traditions and Early Life 3 

D'Aubigne, the Huguenot historian, wit, poet, warrior, 
and friend of Henri Quaere, it is readily conceded that 
many of the Dabneys possess traits of mind, heart 
and will similar to those which made this old hero con- 
spicuous. " These traits produced in the family scho- 
lars, writers, and philosophical thinkers who were 
"honored and respected in their generation; pursuing 
the even tenor of their way undisturbed by the anxious 
dreams of ambition, uncorrupted by the angry strife 
and multiplied temptations of a public career. " * 

Such a man was Dr. R. L. Dabney, well known in 
this country and abroad as a teacher, writer and the- 
ologian. He had been during the Civil War a Major 
in the Confederate Army and Chief of Staff of General 
Stonewall Jackson. After the death of the great mil- 
itary genius Dr. Dabney became his biographer and 
wrote the life which has furnished material for sub- 
sequent works, notably the "Life of Stonewall Jack- 
son" by Colonel Henderson of the British Army which 
is used as a text-book at Sandhurst, England. 

Returning to his post at Hampden-Sidney in 1865 
at the close of the war, Dr. Dabney faced conditions 
that seemed almost desperate. These people of South- 
side Virginia were at grips with utter ruin. Their 
plantations were dependent on slave labor and their 
money, invested patriotically in Confederate Bonds, 
was worthless. With their slaves freed and their land 
made useless it was necessary for these Virginia men 
and women to fight for a bare existence, and to per- 
form tasks for which they were ill-fitted by training 

1 From the John Blair Dabney Manuscript, 1850. 

4 A Memoir and Letters 

and education. But with undaunted courage they 
worked, the men in the fields and the women in the 
homes, to maintain a civilization which their ancestors 
had established and bequeathed to them, the burden 
falling most heavily on the boys and old men, as the 
majority of the men of military age had been killed or 

It was a hard and heartbreaking fight against 
grinding poverty and corrupt local government in the 
hands of the vilest element from which this country 
has ever suffered. The dregs and scum of the North- 
ern states came down to the South with political power 
and combined with African savages to humiliate an 
Anglo-Saxon people already crushed by the fortunes of 
war. No wonder that many of the leading men of the 
South thought emigration the only solution of their 
difficulties. At this period Virginia lost many of her 
ablest men who sought homes in the middle and far 
west where they could have opportunities for them- 
selves and their families, no longer possible in the noble 
old commonwealth of Virginia, ravaged by war and 
ruined by "reconstruction." 

Dr. Dabney was one of those whose clear vision 
saw the tragic prostration that would follow the war, 
especially in this section of Virginia with its fine old 
houses and plantations dependent on negro labor. He, 
together with other leaders, Dr. Moses Hoge, General 
Jubal Early and Commodore Maury favored organized 
emigration by the Southern people and a project to 
settle in New Zealand was seriously discussed. How- 
ever, the plan was finally abandoned and Dr. Dab- 


Traditions and Early Life 5 

ney was persuaded to continue his labors at Union 
Theological Seminary where he was considered a bul- 
wark of the Southern Presbyterian Church. In the 
last year of the war he wrote his noble and beautiful 
"Defense of Virginia and the South/' and some years 
later his "Theology/' which is a text-book in many 
Presbyterian theological seminaries. 

In August 1865, the month in which Lewis Dabney 
was born, the Seminary at Hampden-Sidney opened 
with no funds, but with twenty-four students, who 
returned dressed for the most part in old Confederate 
uniforms, the buttons covered with black, as it was 
unlawful to wear Rebel buttons. The professors 
dressed in homespun and their families lived on the 
coarsest food. 

Dr. Thomas C. Johnson writes of this period: "The 
roads were filled with vagrant negroes, the court house 
greens where Randolph and Henry had addressed 
audiences of freeholders now resounded with the empty 
babble of negroes, carpet-baggers, and scalawags. The 
bottom rail was on top. Old master stumbled over the 
clods, his soldier son drove the broken down army 
horses to the plow and both bravely struggled to make 
ends meet till they could devise some plan to piece 
together the broken fabric of their lives." 

On such a topsy-turvy world Lewis Dabney opened 
his eyes on August 11, 1865, and it is undoubtedly 
true that these currents and cross currents of struggle, 
with their periods of hope alternating with times of 
discouragement, impressed the mind and character of 

6 A Memoir and Letters 

the boy with a courage and resolution to face whatever 
should come to him in life squarely, to meet all issues 
honestly, independently, and without fear. 

Lewis Dabney's mother was Margaret Lavinia 
Morrison, the daughter of the Rev. James Morrison of 
Rockbridge County, Virginia, and from her he inher- 
ited in large part his charm and lovableness as well as 
his fearless nature. As his parents had previously lost 
a son named Robert Lewis, it was decided to call this 
youngest son by the name of a soldier and great ex- 
plorer, Captain Meriwether Lewis, the first governor 
of the Louisiana territory and a cousin of Dr. 
Dabney. Dr. Dabney in his youth had lived for 
two years in the home of Reuben Lewis, the brother 
of Meriwether Lewis, while attending the University 
of Virginia. The great adventure of the Lewis and 
Clark expedition so recently completed (1806) and 
its far-reaching consequences, stirred his imagination. 
But, still more, the courage, high character and tragic 
death of Captain Lewis impressed his kinsman and 
he now decided to give that honored name to his 
youngest son, born in the dark hour of his country's 

But though the world frowned on the little boy it 
could not daunt him. He feared nobody, not even his 
learned father of whom most people, including his two 
older brothers, stood in awe, and many are the amusing 
stories told in Virginia of his encounters with his 
father who was disarmed by the wit and temerity of 
the child. Dr. Dabney always said with regret; 
"Lewis was born a Yankee," referring to the date of 


Traditions and Early Life 7 

his birth, but it could be more truly said he was born 
a rebel, for he resisted tyranny, oppression, and coer- 
cion, whether in fact or theory, all his life. 

In his eagerness for the absolute freedom of soul 
which he craved he was impatient of frontiers and 
conventions and sometimes broke the bounds. He had 
an innate and unconquerable distaste for rule and 
authority, and as a child his active mind was con- 
stantly devising ways of escaping from it. A letter 
from his father to a friend in 1869, when Lewis was 
four years old, gives a characteristic description of 
the two younger sons: 

"Samuel, aged ten, is still a pupil of his mother. He 
is improving in his learning a good deal and is a very 
piously disposed and gentlemanly little fellow. Lewis 
is rather in a transition state. Having arrived at the 
dignity of breeches and a jacket his mother seems to 
have waked up to the fact that he is big enough to stand 
the switch and consequently his back right often comes 
to grief, from his propensity to tell fibs and be impu- 
dent. He wears frequently a very grave face as though 
somehow this world was turning up a different one 
from what he flattered himself. I think the question 
whether he can get his own consent to come fully under 
the yoke of authority is still under debate in his mind. 
But it is clear to him that the switch is too bad to stand, 
whereon his mind undergoes a good deal of perplexity." 

At the age of four, having determined that the way 
to escape authority was to strike out for himself, he 
opened the bottom drawer of the massive old bureau 
which contained his clothes, selected what he con- 

8 A Memoir and Letters 

sidered an ample supply, tucked them under his arm, 
put an old felt hat on his head, and started west guided 
by the setting sun. He had heard his elders speak 
of the West as a vast and rich country where some 
of their neighbors had gone to make their fortunes, 
and it appealed to his vivid imagination and desire for 
freedom. When he was missed some time later his 
anxious family traced him by his small garments 
dropped along the road in his flight. Still trudging 
westward down the big road he was overtaken and 
brought back under the yoke much to his mortification 
and disappointment, and many years elapsed before 
he again tried his fortune in the great West. 

He was of a very intense and sensitive nature as 
another story of the same period illustrates. At the 
age of five having demanded and obtained "long 
trousers and a felt hat like Pa's" he felt ready for the 
responsibilities of life, fell deeply in love with a young 
lady of twenty-one, and took with perfect seriousness 
her promise to marry him. When in the course of 
time she married a suitor nearer her age Lewis was 
so heartbroken and indignant that he had to be locked 
in his room to prevent his rushing to the church and 
creating a disturbance during the ceremony performed 
by his father. He stormed and kicked the door while 
his faithful mammy stood outside and tried to console 
him to no avail. He often spoke of this in later life 
as his first disillusionment, his first cynical reaction, 
and for years he had a mild distaste for the opposite 

Like many very sensitive people, Lewis Dabney wore 

Traditions and Early Life 9 

a cloak of indifference to hide his deeper feelings, a 
mantle of ironic humor which the world at large did 
not penetrate, some even believing him cold and indif- 
ferent. Those who were close to him, however, knew 
that he had the tenderest heart in the world and a 
craving for affection which was in proportion to his 
shyness in expressing it. It was well known in the 
family that when Lewis said anything tender or affec- 
tionate it was because his feelings were too much for 
him and burst the bounds of his shyness. No one who 
looked into his eyes could doubt the sensitiveness of 
his nature. His capacity for suffering was as great as 
his capacity for enjoyment; both were far above the 

In the year 1872 his father writing to a friend in 
China says in regard to his three sons: "Our son 
Charles distinguished himself on completing his junior 
course in college. He stood at the head of his class. 
Sam is as good and thoughtful as ever and even Lewis 
I think is getting somewhat better." Dr. Dabney was 
far prouder of his three sons than his restrained lan- 
guage admits and he was especially proud of the 
youngster aged seven of whom he speaks as getting 
"somewhat better" and whose unusual gifts he recog- 
nized at that early age. 

Lewis' imperturbable coolness, his wit, and a certain 
large-heartedness disarmed his most severe critics and 
even the old ladies of the village loved him though they 
stood in terror of what the boy would do next. 

His friends were many and ranged through all 
grades of society. Mammy in her cabin always had a 

io A Memoir and Letters 

welcome smile and a few choice dainties to offer him 
when he came for sympathy to her ample bosom, and 
there was a close partnership between him and Ellen 
the cook. The understanding- was that when he was 
sent from the table, which often happened, he would 
repair to the kitchen. There a napkin was spread and 
the choicest tidbits were served to the unrepentant 
sinner from the dishes which his severe judge in the 
dining room partook of later. The formula was a 
rebuke from Dr. Dabney and the question, "Lewis, 
would you rather take a whipping or go without your 
dinner?'' "I would rather go without my dinner, Sir," 
would be the answer, which was a mere expression of 
preference, as Lewis knew that calamity would never 
happen while his faithful ally was in the kitchen and 
his conscience gave him no twinge for his Jesuitical 


Among the stories told in Virginia is one of a 
Sunday dinner when the family were gathered to- 
gether after one of Dr. Dabney's long sermons at 
the college church. The text had included the words 
"Love your enemies." Lewis, knowing his father's 
unalterable attitude toward the war, soberly enquired, 
"Pa, do you love the Yankees?" There was an awful 
pause. Then, "Leave the table, sir!" said Dr. Dab- 
ney and Lewis obediently left the dining room and 
repaired to the kitchen and Ellen. The existence of 
this partnership for famine relief caused his family 
much amusement when he confessed it in later years. 
But it was only after having exhausted the powers 
of reasoning that he concocted the idea of secret alii- 

Traditions and Early Life ii 

ances. The following story was printed some years 
ago in a Virginia paper : 

"The venerable Dr. R. L. Dabney is well known 
in this country and abroad. Upward of twenty years 
ago his youngest son Lewis, a sharp-witted lad who 
promised to become a chip off the old block, was 
whipped one day for an act of disobedience and then 
made to sit on the sofa and reflect on his sins. After 
a few minutes he said : 

"Ma, do you believe in prayer?'' 

"Certainly, my son." 

"Ma, do you believe if you asked God to make me 
a better boy he would answer your prayer?" 

"I trust he would, my son." 

"Then, Ma, why don't you try more praying about 
me and less whipping?" 

A remarkably philosophical reflection for a small 
boy who had just suffered the tyranny of force. 

Being six years younger than his brother Samuel 
Brown and ten years younger than Charles William, 
Lewis was thrown on his own resources for com- 
panionship, and he turned to books, for which he had 
a passion all his life. He was always to be found, 
when not at active play, in some corner lying on his 
back with a book in his hand, oblivious of the world 
for hours at a time. Often his mother, who was his 
first teacher, would send Mammy at lesson time to find 
him in the barn where he had taken refuge with his 
book to be free from intrusion or interruption; reluc- 
tantly would he return, book in hand, reading as he 
came, and filling Mammy with exasperated impatience. 

12 A. Memoir and Letters 

At the age of twelve he received his first mental 
discipline. He was sent to the Preparatory School 
at Worsham of which Mr. James Thornton was Head 
Master. Mr. Thornton was a son of Col. John Thorn- 
ton who fell at the battle of Sharpsburg and the family 
fortunes being swallowed up in the war. his son was 
forced to teach school. James Thornton was a born 
teacher of the old field type. He knew his Latin, Greek 
and mathematics "upside down, and taught them furi- 
ously." To maintain discipline he sized a boy up when 
he entered the school and if necessary he had several 
rounds with him to decide once and for all who was 
master. The superior boys recognized his force of 
character and yielded to his influence. The bad boys 
were either flogged and broken in or dismissed from 
the school. "One look into Jim Thornton's cold blue 
eye," Lewis said, "made a boy with any sense decide 
to study." He always spoke of Mr. Thornton with 
deep affection and admiration. "Jim Thornton and 
his rod," he added, "put the fear of God into us boys 
and taught us to love learning and truth." When he 
was fourteen years old he was ready to enter Hampden- 
Sidney College, from which at the age of eighteen 
he took his B. A. degree. 

In this year, 1883, his father was offered the chair 
of Philosophy, Psychology, and Political Economy at 
the University of Texas, just opening for its first term. 
Dr. Dabney, through loyalty to Hampden-Sidney and 
Virginia, had previously refused calls to Princeton 
Theological Seminary, and to the pastorate of the 
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church of New York; but 

Traditions and Early Life 13 

failing health and the hope that a change of climate 
would benefit him made him accept this invitation to 
become one of the faculty of a new university in a 
great western state. 

The Texas of 1883 was close to the frontier. 
Sparsely settled though it was, its leaders were men 
of strength and ability. Many of them had been 
prominent in the South and had moved to Texas after 
the war. The essential traits of pioneers, vision and 
virility, were conspicuous in those early Texans and 
they laid well the foundation upon which the vast 
empire of the state has been built. The first faculty 
of the University of Texas was selected with care by 
the Board of Regents of the University and included 
men of eminence and reputation in their special lines. 
Besides Dr. Dabney there were, Dr. John W. Mallet, 
Professor of Chemistry from the University of Vir- 
ginia; Dr. Milton Humphreys, Latin and Greek Lan- 
guages and Literature, also from the University of 
Virginia; Dr. Leslie Waggoner, English Literature 
and History ; Dr. Henri Tallichet, Modern Languages ; 
Dr. Leroy Broun, Mathematics; Ex-Governor O. M. 
Roberts and Judge R. S. Gould, Law and Jurispru- 
dence. To take his place with these men in building 
up a great state university, Dr. Dabney in the fall of 
1883 moved with his family to Austin, Texas. 

The family brought with them from Virginia an old 
servant, "Uncle Warner/' who remained with them 
for many years, faithful, loyal and devoted to "Old 
Marster," "Old Miss," and the three "Young Mars- 

14 A Memoir and Letters 

ters." On the death of this old man, who was the finest 
type of the ante-bellum Virginia negro, Lewis Dabney 
wrote a beautiful tribute of affection which was re- 
published in part in the Outlook of August, 1909. In 
an editorial in this number of the Outlook, Dr. Lyman 
Abbott writes : "Some refreshing light is thrown upon 
the race question in the South by a remarkable obitu- 
ary notice published in the Southern Presbyterian of 
Atlanta, Georgia, which has just come to our atten- 
tion. The notice is an account of the life and character 
of 'Uncle Warner/ an old servant of the Dabney 
family of Virginia with whom he lived for forty 
years. " Feeling the approach of death the old man 
came back to Virginia at the age of eighty-three to 
die on his native soil, and upon his death Lewis Meri- 
wether Dabney wrote a tribute to their old friend and 
servant which concludes with these words: "If dig- 
nity and truth, instinctive courtesy and self-respect, 
combined with kindly humour, make a gentleman, he 
was one. It is the peculiar honor of our mother, Vir- 
ginia, that she bred these virtues in her worthy sons, 
both white and black, and in none more than in Uncle 
Warner. If duty well performed in every relation of 
life be an outward sign of inward grace and true piety, 
we feel the comfortable assurance that he abides in 
the House of our Father with his best friends, our 
sainted parents, in the fellowship of just men made 
perfect." Such was the respect and affection which 
existed in the South between the best class of masters 
and servants, a relationship no longer existing and no 
longer possible. 

Traditions and Early Life 15 

In 1883, Lewis Dabney came with his parents to 
Texas and entered the University in the fall of that 
year. Thomas Watt Gregory x writes of this period : 

"I knew Dr. R. L. Dabney in his prime. He and 
John B. Minor were the two most colossal figures with 
whom I ever came in contact. When in the presence 
of Dr. Dabney I always realized how Elijah must have 
looked. He is the only very great man I recall whose 
children, in every instance, inherited a substantial part 
of his mental power. ... As to the Lewis of those 
days, I loved him then as ever afterward, and have 
no difficulty in visualizing him. He was a very tall 
and very slender boy of about eighteen, when he came 
to the University. He had read much, not always 
wisely, and remembered all he read. He had attended 
college at Hampden-Sidney, and had the mentality of 
a man of twenty-two ; his associates were several years 
his senior, and all recognized in him a maturity equal 
to the best of them ; he was only a fair student, as he 
took a great deal of interest in everything going on, 
and was eternally reading everything he could get hold 
of. Lewis was not a ladies' man, but went out with the 
girls some, and was a constant visitor at the residence 
of General R. L. Walker, who was a Virginian and an 
old Army friend of his father, where the choice spirits 
of the student body gathered and where several charm- 
ing girls lived. He was a great conversationalist, even 
in those early days, and I still recall two characteristic 
utterances : Lewis and I were members of the baseball 

1 Mr. Gregory, who became Attorney-General in the cabinet of 
President Wilson, was an old and intimate friend of Lewis Dabney. 
The quotation is from a private letter. 

1 6 A Memoir and Letters 

team and were going to Georgetown to play a game 
with the Southwestern University and were discussing 
the style of uniform we should wear ; after listening to 
other suggestions Lewis remarked that as we would 
certainly lose the game (a prophecy which was prompt- 
ly fulfilled), he thought it would be appropriate for us 
to wear "sackcloth and ashes/' 

"Lewis was in his father's class in mental philosophy 
during his first year at the University and he used 
to ask questions indicating radical divergences from 
the conclusions of the preceptor. The old Doctor 
would rise in his wrath and annihilate Lewis with a 
terrible blast of ridicule and denunciation. One of us 
asked Lewis one day why he did this, and his answer 
was, "I just want to show the boys how smart Pa is." 
This admiration for his father's intellect grew with the 
years, and to the day of his death he would quote his 
father as the final authority on almost every subject. 

Dr. Dabney having decided not to send Lewis to 
the University of Virginia where his two elder 
brothers had graduated, the years of 1883 to J ^5 
were spent by him in taking an elective course of 
studies at the University of Texas, to supplement what 
he had received at Hampden-Sidney. These studies 
included post-graduate work in English literature, 
philosophy, Greek, Latin and French. He acquired 
languages easily and was soon absorbed in Greek, 
Latin and French literature, all of which he read with 
avidity and enthusiasm and continued to enjoy 
throughout his life. It is an interesting fact that he 
alone constituted the senior class in Greek under Dr. 

Traditions and Early Life 17 

Milton Humphreys. This association left a deep and 
permanent impress on him and he often spoke of what 
a delight were those hours spent with Dr. Humphreys. 
The class resolved itself into a symposium where two 
keen minds reveled in an intellectual appreciation of 
the glory that was Greece. In a conversation with 
Dr. Charles W. Dabney many years afterward Dr. 
Humphreys spoke of the pleasure he derived from the 
intercourse with this "brilliant youth," and quoted a 
Greek ode written by his young student at this time. 
In Lewis' mind there was implanted by this contact a 
profound love for the literature and civilization of 
Greece which had much to do with forming his literary 
tastes. These tastes and his ability were so marked 
that on completion of his college work he was offered 
an assistant professorship of English Literature at 
the University, but this he declined as he had no love 
for teaching. In 1885, his brother Samuel, who had 
been teaching school in Virginia, came to Austin, and 
entered the Law School of the University, Lewis en- 
tering the same class the following January. 

Of his home life in Austin at this time Dr. Johnson 
writes: "It is safe to say that it would have been 
hard to parallel that home for another equally remark- 
able — for wit, intelligence, strenuous thinking, vigor- 
ous discussion of everything from 'the cedar tree that 
is in Lebanon unto the hyssop that springeth out of 
the wall.' There were discussions of questions political, 
social, sociological and religious, of subjects lunary, 
stellar and cosmic; for these were young men of un- 
common parts and were used to, and in company with, 

1 8 A Memoir and Letters 

one whose mind careered around over the universe. 
To this home came many of the brightest young men 
of the University and many of the ablest and best in- 
formed men of Austin." 

In the summer of these years the family usually 
returned to "Red Hill" in Amherst County, Virginia, 
the country place in which Dr. Dabney took so much 
interest and which he delighted to improve and beau- 
tify with his own labor. Lewis, however, had no taste 
for manual labor, and his love for "Red Hill" was 
always tempered by the rapidity with which the aspen 
trees on the lawn sent up fresh shoots to replace those 
which he laboriously hoed up under severe compulsion. 
He used to say it always made his back ache to look 
at an aspen and he greatly preferred trees associated 
with seclusion, shade and a book. 

Lewis, who had been in Virginia for his health, did 
not enter the law school until the beginning of 1886. 
He and his brother were in the same classes now for 
the first time, and his brother observed his methods 
of study with astonishment : 

"Lewis," he said, "studied very little and rarely 
studied at all at night. In the afternoon he read some- 
thing of cases and in the morning he would rise an 
hour or two before breakfast and, taking his text- 
books, rapidly go through them. He may have looked 
at them before recitation sometimes, if there were no 
pleasant company or book at hand. And yet he was 
by all odds the most brilliant man in the class and easily 
held his high standing. He attended recitations and 
lectures regularly and was a great favorite with the 

Traditions and Early Life 19 

two professors, Governor Roberts and Judge Gould. 
Governor Roberts was a brilliant man; Judge Gould 
was one of the best teachers I have ever known — for 
certain types — diligent and conscientious. But it was 
just a fragment of a law school. Lewis sat on the front 
row in Governor Roberts' room, one of his 'backers 
up' and the old Governor seemed to recognize in him a 
mind similar to his own. Extraordinary things hap- 
pened at his lectures. Conversation flowed between 
the Governor and his class. Witticisms, humorous 
remarks, anecdotes, and repartee took up much of the 

The four years spent by Lewis Dabney at the Uni- 
versity of Texas were full of varied interests. His 
friends, both in the academic department and in the 
law school, were men of ability, several becoming con- 
spicuous in later years in national affairs. Among 
them were Albert Sidney Burleson, Postmaster Gen- 
eral and Thomas Watt Gregory, Attorney General, in 
the administration of President Wilson; R. L. Batts, 
who became Dean of the Law School and later a 
Federal Judge ; Clarence Miller, R. L. Henry, the two 
Proctors, R. E. L. Knight, W. J. J. Smith, Wm. 
Thompson, Oeland and O'Brien, all prominent attor- 
neys of Texas and New York. These young men 
formed a brilliant coterie taking part in all the activities 
of college life, social, athletic and literary. In this 
new university where there was "still fair quail shoot- 
ing and some rabbit hunting on the campus" they were 
pioneers and formed many of the organizations still in 

20 A Memoir and Letters 

existence. Of one such organization Mr. Gregory 
has written: 

"Lewis and I, R. L. Batts, Clarence Miller and 
several other students organized in the year (aca- 
demic) 1884-5 the dub known as the Tarantula. 
Among the founders were men of every fraternity of 
importance in the University, and the idea was that 
the club should form a nucleus for university organ- 
ization throughout the state in the fight for higher 
education. Its career, though brief, was glorious. Its 
initiation ceremonies were full of frightfulness, its 
costumes resembled the Ku Klux, and its ritual was 
calculated to inspire terror and awe in the candidate. 
Its membership was when complete twenty-two. Its 
members became very close friends and maintained 
their friendship long after leaving college. As an 
organization it was respected and its early demise re- 
gretted by its enthusiastic founders. The most de- 
lightful banquet I ever attended was the one that 
marked the passing of the Tarantula, where wit and 
high spirits were supreme." 

"In the field of athletics," Mr. Gregory goes on to 
say, "football and track were at this time unknown at 
the University and 'the few who affected tennis were 
regarded as mild lunatics, not to be encouraged/ ' 
Baseball served as an outlet for their young and over- 
flowing energies. Besides being a member of the base- 
ball team, Lewis Dabney was one of the "mild lunatics" 
who played tennis. For other activities he was one of 
the editors of the University Literary Magazine, a 
member of the Athenaeum Society, and of the Phi 


Traditions and Early Life 21 

Gamma Delta fraternity. Though not a zealous stu- 
dent, he made a brilliant record in the law school 
and in the year 1887 ne to °k ms L.L.B., standing- 
second in a class in which his brother Samuel stood 

At this time he was twenty-three years old and of 
striking appearance. He had been a delicate child hav- 
ing had many serious illnesses in his early years. At 
the age of eighteen he had a severe attack of pleurisy 
the effects of which he carried all his life. For the 
benefit of. his health, he was sent to the Rockbridge 
Baths, Virginia, where his uncle, Dr. Samuel Morrison, 
had a well known sanitarium to which came patients 
from all over the State. To help his uncle, he rode 
about the country collecting bills, often bringing home 
a dozen geese in exchange for a visit of the stork, or a 
load of wood to pay for setting a broken leg. Dr. 
Morrison was a fine physician and surgeon, and while 
here Lewis became interested in the study of medicine 
and often helped his uncle to perform operations of a 
more or less serious kind. 

After his recovery from pleurisy he became grad- 
ually more robust in health. Though he grew very tall 
he remained thin until his twenty-fifth year. At the 
age of twenty-three he was six feet two and a half 
inches in height, and weighed not more than one hun- 
dred and fifty pounds. From his father he inherited 
his dark hair and eyes and the marked Dabney chin 
which is said to come through the Randolph family. 
From his mother's side came his fair skin and reddish 
brown mustache. His great height and his intellectual 


22 A Memoir and Letters 

countenance gave him a striking appearance even as 
a young man, and as he grew older and gained weight 
he was an impressive figure in any gathering. 

From his father he had also inherited many intel- 
lectual traits but his mind, so like his father's in some 
ways, differed entirely in others. Dr. Dabney en- 
grossed with philosophy, psychology and theology, had 
little time for aesthetic enjoyment. For him the world 
was too serious a place to play. But it was otherwise 
with his youngest son. He loved all that was beautiful, 
and he had the keenest appreciation of music, art and 
poetry. As a boy he taught himself to play on the 
flute, studied harmony, and composed several pieces of 
music. He disliked the artificial and trivial in music 
and art and was impatient of much so-called poetry; 
but the great operas and oratorios, the great pictures, 
and the great English heritage of noble and sublime 
poetry, stirred him deeply. He himself had a gift for 
writing which unfortunately he used too seldom. It 
was his intention to retire from the practice of law 
at the age of sixty and devote himself to writing, a 
plan to which his early death put an end. That a 
mind so gifted should have left so little of record is 
one of the profound regrets of those who loved and 
admired him. 

In 1888 Mr. Dabney moved from Austin to Dallas 
where he spent the remaining years of his life in a 
growing community, of which he was an integral and 
useful part. His five years' residence in Texas had 
broadened the point of view of the Virginia country- 

Traditions and Early Life 23 

bred boy. He now began to adjust himself to Texas 
conditions and to understand Texas people. He be- 
gan to feel a pride in this great empire of the south- 
west with its unlimited resources and opportunities. 
The sharp change of his environment taking place in 
his still formative years deeply marked his personality, 
and the line where the Virginian left off and the Texan 
began was sometimes abrupt and startling. His 
innate conservatism was punctured here and there 
by the western point of view and it amused him to drop 
into the strong and picturesque vernacular of the 
native Texan or cowboy. 

It was characteristic of him that in Texas he was a 
proud Virginian but when on a visit to Virginia he 
became a somewhat boastful Texan. His attitude 
was this : Virginia was his mother ; as such he loved 
her, revered her, gave her all his sentiment, and would 
have poured out for her his last drop of blood. Texas 
was his adopted child. He saw all the faults of this 
young exuberant empire. He witnessed its growing 
pains. He helped draft some of its laws; he wrote 
important provisions of many of its city charters ; he 
had the critical, sometimes impatient, attitude of a 
father, but his imagination was thrilled by the re- 
sources and possibilities of Texas and he had great 
pride in his adopted state. 

Having decided to make his home in Dallas (a town 
of twenty thousand which he was to see increase ten- 
fold) he began the practice of law with the firm of 
Lawther and Holloway but soon formed a partner- 
ship with J. N. Edmonson, a young lawyer from 

24 A Memoir and Letters 

Kentucky and a congenial spirit. These two read to- 
gether, talked together and practised law together for 
the limited number of clients who came to seek their 
advice. This limited number grew to such propor- 
tions that the firm decided its income could probably 
support one wife. But the life of a bachelor was so 
pleasing to both partners that the matter was not 
pressed and after five years neither one had availed 
himself of the opportunity. Dallas was a small town 
in those days. Social life was agreeable, and a circle 
of congenial friends made life pass pleasantly for a 
bachelor. In the winter of 1893 however, at the home 
of Col. Alfred Belo, Lewis Dabney met Stella Hutche- 
son, a daughter of Captain Joseph Hutcheson of 
Houston, who was visiting Jeannette Belo. This was 
his first and only love affair; one of those rare cases 
of mutual attraction at first sight. They became en- 
gaged the following autumn and two years later, on 
October 29, 1895, they were married in New York 
City. Captain Hutcheson was at the time in the House 
of Representatives, and the family were spending the 
autumn in New York before the opening of Congress. 
Though born in Texas, Stella Hutcheson was of 
Virginia parentage on both sides. Her father, hav- 
ing entered the Confederate Army at the age of 18 
and having fought through the Civil War, was one 
of those who felt unable to endure the tragic condi- 
tions in Virginia at its close. He was the son of 
Charles Sterling Hutcheson, a planter of Mecklenburg 
County, Virginia, who before the war, owned and 
worked his plantations with two hundred slaves. When 

Traditions and Early Life 25 

the war was over, his fortune confiscated and his oldest 
son, William, having been killed at the battle of Gaines' 
Mill, his only surviving son, Joseph, attempted to run 
the plantations with paid negro labor. After a few 
efforts to control freed slaves and one experience with 
the hated Freedman's Bureau, he realized that life 
under such conditions would be unendurable; so he 
left at once for the University of Virginia and took 
a two year law course under the great teacher, John B. 
Minor, in one year. In the spring of 1868 he married 
Mildred Carrington and moved to Texas where his 
father owned lands in Anderson County. He soon 
established his home in Houston and there by his un- 
usual capacity and tireless energy he rose to a posi- 
tion of eminence. 

Mildred Carrington was the daughter of Dr. Fon- 
taine Carrington of Halifax County, Virginia, and 
his wife, Elizabeth Venable. The latter was a warm 
friend and admirer of Dr. Dabney whose theological 
works, profound as they are, were her greatest de- 
light. She was an example of the type of woman 
which the civilization of that day produced in Virginia. 
Noted for her piety and learning, she read her Bible 
in the original Greek and Latin and made her own 
translations. Stella Hutcheson therefore through her 
family connections — Hutchesons, Carringtons, Ven- 
ables, Reads and Scotts — had inherited the same tradi- 
tions as Lewis Dabney through his connections — 
Dabneys, Prices, Morrisons, Randolphs and Winstons 
— and among those traditions a love for Virginia and 
a veneration for the ideals which produced the pioneers 

26 A Memoir and Letters 

and great men who so largely made and moulded this 

This love for Virginia, strengthened by exile from 
it, became a longing and a passion with Lewis Dabney. 
His keen sense of humor made him alive to the peculiar 
faults and idiosyncrasies of Virginians which amused 
him intensely but could not shake his loyalty. Their 
talkative, expansive ways, their imperturbable self- 
satisfaction, their contempt for money making, and 
love of ease, he considered "amiable weaknesses" ; 
while he deeply admired their sterling qualities of 
strict integrity, loyalty to friends and kinsmen, and 
their sense of "noblesse oblige" which permits no 
straying from the path of duty and honor. To know 
that a man was a Virginian predisposed him in his 
favor, while to a Virginian of the old school his heart 
went out with great warmth and affection. Of this 
type were his own father, always the object of his 
deepest veneration and his father-in-law, Captain 
Hutcheson. Colonel Alfred H. Belo of Dallas and 
Major Benjamin F. Weems of Houston were also men 
whose courage and lofty characters typified to him 
the ideals of the "Old South" which he loved and 
whose cause he always upheld with loyal devotion. 

In a letter written to one of his brothers, in 1914, 
he says: "As for me, if I forget Virginia, her glories 
and her sorrows, her magnanimity, honor, and wis- 
dom in her hour of rule, her sons' sturdy manhood 
in defeat, may my right hand be withered and my 
tongue cling to the roof of my mouth." He himself 
was typically Virginian and no one could talk to him 

Traditions and Early Life 27 

long before this fact was evident. One of his fa- 
vorite stories was of the Virginia gentleman who in 
sending his son into the world to make his fortune 
said: "My son, never ask a man where he is from, 
for if he is from Virginia it will develop in the first 
few minutes of conversation, and if he is not it is too 
painful a subject to introduce." 

A few months after his marriage he built a cot- 
tage on Ervay Street in Dallas where his family lived 
for ten years. Here his two children were born. True 
to his traditions, nothing gave him more pleasure 
than to have his friends around him in his home. In 
this first cottage, and afterwards in their home on 
Maple Avenue, there was an atmosphere of joyous 
hospitality, and Mr. Dabney was a stimulating host 
to his friends of all ages, all sorts and all conditions. 
People interested him enormously, not collectively but 
individually. He either liked a person or he did not. 
He never pretended, and what he did or said was sin- 
cere. Above all he took people as they were and liked 
them as they were. He did not try to uplift anybody 
or reform anybody or change anybody, and he had 
little patience with reformers, uplifters, and doc- 
trinaires of all varieties. He respected the integrity 
of all honest individuals and all honest opinions, but 
he hated shallowness, cant, and hypocrisy, and thought 
shallow thinking the curse of the American people. 

Besides the bond of similar traditions there was in 
his home a congeniality of tastes, a mutually shared 
love for books, music and friends, an emphasis on ideas 
rather than things, which produced a rare companion- 

28 A Memoir and Letters 

ship that lasted for twenty-seven years. His chil- 
dren's minds opened and expanded under the rays 
of his many-sided intellect, and they admired and loved 
their father with an affection which was almost 

These years of his early married life were spent by 
Mr. Dabney in the active practice of his profession, 
in helping Dallas to grow, intellectually and musically 
as well as materially. He put the force of his en- 
thusiasm behind every movement that was for the 
sound advancement of his city and state. But his 
chief interest was in his family and friends and in his 
books. Books filled a large place in his life. He loved 
to read them. He loved to possess them. In his early 
years collecting a library, book by book, was an absorb- 
ing hobby and the purchase of an "Edition de Luxe," 
for example, Burton's Arabian Nights in eighteen vol- 
umes, was a thing so thrilling and so extravagant that 
it had to be confessed to his wife like a crime. From 
his point of view, books were much more important 
than chairs, rugs and kitchen stoves, but he wasn't 
sure that that was the general impression. The book 
agents came to know his weakness and besieged his 
office. Finally, one day in desperation, he said to an 
agent who was making a few opening remarks : "My 
friend, you are wasting your time in trying to sell 
me books for you see I can neither read nor write." 
The baffled and enraged agent walked to the door and 
looking back upon the desk piled high with legal docu- 
ments remarked, "Well, you look it !" 

His taste in reading was inclined to the classics 

Traditions and Early Life 29 

but he read everything and a book once in his hands 
he was completely lost to his surroundings. "The 
Dabneys," he would say, "have two inherited dis- 
eases, reading and talking." In a bookshop or library 
he was unconscious of the flight of time. Once, in 
1906, when his family were away for the summer, he 
undertook to pack and move his books from their first 
home which he had sold. He engaged a moving van 
and set to work. The moving van came at the ap- 
pointed time, to find Mr. Dabney seated on the floor 
surrounded by one shelf of books which he was read- 
ing and enjoying enormously, but not a single book 
had been packed. It was only with the aid of the 
moving man and a sympathetic neighbor that the books 
were ever packed and moved. 

It was his many-sidedness that made him different 
from other men. He was not interested in a few 
things only but in everything. His acquisitive mind 
seized upon every fact. His memory stored and re- 
tained it, and gave it back transmuted and made vivid 
by his glowing imagination. He was an omnivorous 
reader. This gave him a remarkable fund of informa- 
tion and made him a delightful conversationalist on 
a vast number of subjects. He could talk about medi- 
cine with a doctor, theology with a minister, history 
with a professor of history, music with a musician, 
and each wondered at his technical knowledge. Mr. 
Charles Kribs of Dallas tells a story of a cotton mill 
owner who traveled several hours on the train with 
Mr. Dabney, and on meeting Mr. Kribs asked where 
Mr. Dabney's mills were located. It was wellnigh 

30 A Memoir and Letters 

impossible to convince him that Mr. Dabney was a 
lawyer, that his technical knowledge came only from 
reading and observation and that his interest in the 
subject was purely intellectual. 

Combined with an enthusiastic grasp of the subject 
in hand his talent lay in his flashes of wit, his keen 
humor and in his use of picturesque language and 
images. What was said of Professor Basil Gilder- 
sleeve, a product of the same civilization, was also true 
of him: "The surprises of his wit, his fertility and 
felicity in the use of images (which Aristotle says 
are the surest mark of literary talent because they 
cannot be borrowed), were not labored acquisitions. 
All who enjoyed the spontaneity of his conversation 
knew that they were his natural mode of expression. 
He thought in vivid imagery and associated the re- 
motest ideas in quaint and unexpected but illuminating 

His rank as a scholar and a thinker was acknowl- 
edged by all who knew him, but it was as a philosopher 
that he made his deepest impress. He had such un- 
alterable opinions that he was thought intolerant, even 
arrogant. But no man ever had less personal vanity. 
He cared not one jot for appearances and too little for 
conventions; the applause of the public had not the 
slightest appeal for him. His utter indifference to 
the plaudits of the people made him impatient and in- 
dignant with those politicians and demagogues who 
sacrificed principles to obtain this applause. His own 
brothers thought him lacking in ambition. This, how- 
ever, was not the case. He valued worldly success, but 

Traditions and Early Life 31 

only as a means to an end, and that end was leisure 
to follow his tastes. He loved his profession and rose 
to be a leader of the Bar of Texas, but his intellectual 
life had many other sides, and he refused to sacrifice 
the pleasure and growth of any one of them to con- 
centrate on the mere acquisition of wealth. 

Before continuing the narrative of Mr. Dabney's 
life through the medium of his letters an analysis of 
his character and mental attributes, written by his 
brother, Samuel Dabney, is included as casting an 
intimate light on his personality: 

"Of all our father's sons who grew to manhood, 
Lewis was the most marked. He inherited from our 
father a rapid logical faculty but less intense and his 
mind was less hardened by severe study. Lewis never 
studied as our father did but their minds seemed to 
have the same analytical incisiveness and were to a 
great extent of the same quality. Neither was in- 
fluenced by the psychology of the crowd. Never were 
they moved by clamor into thinking things true be- 
cause they were said. Our father was intensely op- 
posed to the democratic conception and so was Lewis. 
Their environment and mental attitude towards life 
compelled this. Their minds were essentially alike, 
and yet their development and application were very 

"At school, at college, at the university, Lewis did 
not concern himself with reaching for prizes to which 
so many students aspired, and so he was through life. 
In my opinion he could have been the greatest advo- 

32 A Memoir and Letters 

cate I have ever known, if he had chosen. His good 
nature, his taste, his vivid personality, his humour and 
rapidity of thinking qualified him in the highest de- 
gree for the court house, but of all branches of pro- 
fessional work that was the one which he most dis- 
liked. He could and did sink his mind rapidly to 
the bottom of problems, grasping the essential and 
putting to one side the irrelevant. 

"He had our father's great memory. Around every 
situation or past occurrence as it rose in his mind, there 
grouped itself all of the detail — commonplace, humour- 
ous or tragic — so that in narration and speaking he 
could transport himself and his auditors to the very 
scene, where one would see the actors walking about 
alive and vivid. When he chose he could imagine 
and embroider situations and create them in an il- 
lustrative way until the subject which he was dis- 
cussing glowed and sparkled, and the position which 
he maintained was enforced by the power of his great 
humour and fancy. 

"After he had reached his six feet two and one-half 
inches, his great size seemed to be a part of his dis- 
course, so vivid was he. As a boy and as a man he 
was the least quarrelsome person I have ever known. 
To debate, narrate and talk on general subjects were, 
in him, great powers. He always seemed to have time 
to do this and yet, in his profession, he turned off 
masses of work, dictating rapidly and bringing things 
to a final form as quickly as any man I have ever 

"And so he went through life. Always inviting his 

Traditions and Early Life 33 

own soul ; always putting to one side the prizes which 
glitter in most men's eyes; talking, thinking, reading, 
working; doing all of these, and more of each than 
other men do, because he had a greater capacity for 
each ; and I think that his humour helped to keep him 
even and helped him to face situations. 

"Never have I known a man who seemed to enjoy 
life on its many sides as he did, largely because he 
was so good humored and had such capacity, both in- 
tellectual and physical, for enjoyment, and he touched 
upon so much of existence. But he had fewer illusions 
than most men. He had sentiment and emotion, but 
looked out on this sad world and all its mad nonsense 
and wickedness with clearly seeing eyes. He had 
everything, it seemed to me to live for, in wife, chil- 
dren and position, and yet I do not think that outside 
of duty he clung very closely to life. Often his talk 
was full of a wide flowing condemnation of folly, 
whether in himself or other men, for he did not spare 
himself. So I think that he saw the great human 
tragedy and comedy better than any man I have ever 
known and so seeing it did not care — beyond the re- 
quirements of duty — to play an eminent part therein, 
when such eminence would be measured, awarded or 
denied by the mass of men. 

"Life as it flowed, acted and reacted on him, and he 
was sensitive but not much saddened or overjoyed by 
it all. He was both more and less influenced by 
his environment than most men, reacting to or against 
it, but not in his thinking or beliefs conquered by it. 
He never lost the color and flavor of the society in 

34 A Memoir and Letters 

the midst of the wreck of which he grew. By some 
men in his formative period he was profoundly influ- 
enced, above all by our father, and I think by 
James R. Thornton, Dr. Morrison and Professor 
Humphreys. But probably the goodness, patience and 
love of our mother made in his youth the greatest 
though most secret impress on his soul." 


EARLY LETTERS 1893-1910 

Mr. Dabney held pronounced views on all ques- 
tions that interested him, whether of public or private 
import, and these opinions he expressed fearlessly in 
his letters as well as in speaking. When roused to 
indignation, his satire was keen and he did not hesi- 
tate to deliver sledge-hammer blows on occasion. Like 
Dr. Johnson, if he failed to pierce a fallacy with the 
point of his wit, he knocked it out with the butt end. 

He was not a voluminous letter writer, though when 
away from his family he wrote every day to his wife 
letters which are not included. He wrote frequently 
to his two brothers, usually about matters of business. 
Although he was much younger than either, he was the 
business adviser of both, and they consulted him about 
their affairs and relied upon his judgment. From his 
correspondence with them, with his brother-in-law, E. 
Y. Chapin, his friend, George C. Fraser, and his chil- 
dren, there have been selected a certain number of 
letters which set forth his views on matters of general 
interest, illuminated by his characteristic way of ex- 
pressing them. Careless about the preservation of 
his private letters and papers much of his best work 
has been lost. 


36 A Memoir and Letters 

Of the letters that have been preserved, very few 
were written before the year 191 3. From that time on, 
however, a fairly clear outline of his life and activities 
may be traced. A quiet life, lacking in the stirring 
events that fall to the lot of some men, but, rich in the 
deeper experiences of heart and mind. Few of the 
letters appear in their entirety. Dealing, many of 
them, with private affairs or with matters of business, 
only fragments here and there, sometimes but a few 
lines, have been included. 1 

The first extracts are from letters written by Lewis 
Dabney in 1893-4 to his wife before their marriage. 
They reflect his mind at the age of twenty-eight. He 
had now been practicing law for five years, and he 
here indicates his resolution to go to the top of his 
profession at all costs. Like every one he had periods 
of discouragement but they only served to harden his 

March 14, 1893. 

. . . I can remember the time when I was green 
enough to think that it would be fun to be a lawyer, 
but that was before I had worked so hard that my 
bones ached. 

It has been said many times that law is a jealous 
mistress but worse than that she is an absolutely tyran- 
nical one and will not tolerate fancies or tastes tend- 
ing to anything but herself. The hideously dull de- 

x This extract form is responsible for any apparent abruptness of 

Early Letters 1893-1910 37 

tails through which a man must labor to become a 
lawyer wither his very soul and when he has achieved 
his little success he becomes a dry-as-dust machine 
with no taste for literature, art, or music and no talent 
or capacity for any of those things which make life 
delightful. Nature gave me other aspirations and 
other tastes. Do you wonder that I sometimes rebel 
with an intense weariness and disgust as I do to-night ? 
However, I have willed to be a lawyer and I will, 
if I become dry as parchment in the attempt and there 
are compensations. There is a pleasure in overcoming 
obstacles and an elation in victory over one's self. 

"Here, eyes do regard you 
From eternity's stillness. 
Here is all fullness 
Ye brave to reward you. 
Work and despair not." 

Forgive the poetry. It is an article of my 
creed. . . . 

A characteristic comment on marriage follows. 

July, 1893. 

... I think Hamerton's * views are a little extreme 
but correct in the main. Of course the troubles he 
mentions all occur where one party has an intellectual 
life in which the other cannot participate. 

He makes no mention of those marriages, perhaps 
the happiest on this dull earth, where both man and 

hamerton's "Intellectual Life." 

38 A Memoir and Letters 

woman are perfectly matched in stupidity at the 
outset, and go down the vale of life, the solid contents 
of their respective minds causing them to draw more 
and more together by mere force of gravitation, till 
at last they coalesce in perfect union of happy dull- 
ness. The marriage of persons of mind is a dangerous 
experiment. If both have minds they are apt to grow 
apart and chafe at interference, if only one, then 
there is the dreariness of carrying a dead weight. 
Where both are clever and ambitious, it takes an in- 
finity of love and mutual consideration to make life 
happy, and such marriages are often failures. How- 
ever, where in rare cases both grow, not together per- 
haps, but on corresponding lines they bring happiness 
as near perfect as this world can give and far beyond 
the contentment of dull use and custom. . . . 

Living in a country of rolling plains Lewis Dabney 
missed and longed for the mountains of his native 
state. To this he thus gives expression: 

July, 1893. 

I, too, love the mountains, particularly the Blue 
Mountains of old Virginia. There is something pe- 
culiarly stimulating about them to the imagination and 
also the moral feelings. It seems to me when I get 
among them that I am a man again with a soul, while 
on this flat plain I am but a money-earning brute, 
seeking to wrest a dollar from the greedy, cheating 
swarm of rascals around me. There, in the quiet val- 
leys, in sight of those mighty ridges crowned with 


Early Letters i 893-1910 39 

murmuring pines, with the blue sky above and the 
quiet life around, the god Mammon seems to be a 
poor divinity and the soul of man the only important 
thing. For that country I could die as our fathers 
have before us . . . but I could never pump up 
much patriotic enthusiasm over "the sunkissed 
prairies." . . . Liberty and poetry, divinest gifts 
of God to man, seem always to have been associated 
with the mountains and the sea. 

"Of old sat freedom on the heights, 
The thunders breaking at her feet, 
Above her shake the starry lights, 
Below the waters meet." 

I don't think the history of the world will show 
where an inland prairie country has produced anything 
out of the ordinary beyond money-getting. . . . 

Here follow three extracts of literary criticism 
showing his tastes at this age: 

July, 1893. 

. . . If you like essays, I think you would like the 
essays of Elia which contain much that is humorous 
and pathetic as well as some very fine critical writing. 
The advantage about books like this and the Spectator, 
for instance, is that you can take them up, read one 
or two essays, get some very good ideas and amuse- 
ment and yet miss the crushing effect of too much 
scintillation. I think it would be well in these degen- 
erate times, when good style and good literature are 
invaded by every morbid vagary in writing, to read 

40 A Memoir and Letters 

something from the Spectator every week just to keep 
one's ideas clear and style pure. ... I sympathize 
with you in your struggles over Rasselas, though so 
far as purity of style goes it would be a model if it 
were not a trifle pompous. I have been through it 
myself and it reminded me of walking in deep sand on 
a hot day. Rasselas is nothing but a collection of 
the stalest moral platitudes clothed in sonorous periods. 
If you and I are frivolous in this, we have Taine with 
us; but that may be small comfort as the French are 
a light generation and have no appetite for indigestible 
prose and little taste for moral disquisitions whether 
new or old. I think we ought to read such things as 
Rasselas however, on the same principle that one prac- 
tices chromatic scales on the piano. Though dull, 
such practice is absolutely necessary to effective ex- 
pression of one's own ideas on the instrument. Tech- 
nique is necessary in any art. Still there are more 
interesting classics than Rasselas — Swift, Addison, 
Steele, and Goldsmith are better. The reading of the 
classics is useful, too, as a necessary antidote for 
the influence of the horrible style of our modern 
decadence . . . 

As for "Trilby," it is a breath of the sweet spring 
after a surfeit of decadent dry rot and neurotic analy- 
sis. Du Maurier is a Thackeray with less genius but 
a better heart . . . Du Maurier is like Thackeray 
too, in illustrating his own works but his pictures 
are not nearly so funny to me or so effective, 
though Thackeray's drawings are so careless and 
sketchy. . . , 

Early Letters 1893- 19 10 41 

January, 1894. 

. . . About novels — I speak from the standpoint of a 
horrible example. Nothing on earth slackens the ten- 
sion of the mind so much as promiscuous novel reading. 
Novels do not make a man think originally. If there are 
beauties of style or food for reflection in the book, 
the charm of the story serves to distract the atten- 
tion from all that is good in it. Novels destroy the 
finer perceptions and tastes and preclude the enjoy- 
ment of the highest intellectual pleasures by taking 
away the desire for them. 

To illustrate from my own experience — up to 
eighteen I read nothing but novels. The consequence 
was that I had no taste for even such literature as 
Shakespeare, and the solid standard authors were irk- 
some. My imagination was narcotized to such an ex- 
tent that I could not grasp the higher poetry and as 
for taste or appreciation of correct style, I knew not 
what it was. Shame, that I had to confess to myself 
that I could not even understand what the ages had 
pronounced admirable forced me to good reading, 
and I compelled myself to fix my mind on the study 
of the best authors. The effort was soon rewarded 
by the quickening into life of appreciation and the 
mental pleasure which has resulted is such as you 
might imagine enjoyed by one who had recovered a 
physical sense at maturity which had been paralyzed 
from birth and had never been even conceived of by 
its possessor. No acquired sense yields such pure, 
healthy and abiding pleasure as a taste for good litera- 

42 A Memoir and Letters 

ture. Novel reading- leaves my mind jaded and weary 
— reading real living books leaves it purified, invigo- 
rated, and stimulated. Is not your experience the 

To sum the whole thing up, both intellectual pleas- 
ure and intellectual growth result from effort, just as 
physical growth does and there is no effort in devour- 
ing a novel. I don't mean by this harangue that one 
should not read novels at all. Some of the finest lit- 
erature is in this form and not to know such argues 
ignorance; but I merely mean that novel reading 
should be a recreation, not a steady practice. 

I hope you will not find all this boring, I don't offer 
advice, I merely give you a leaf from my own ex- 
perience. . . . 

The "course of light reading" recommended below 
would hardly appeal to a young girl of to-day : 

January, 1894. 

. . . I'm glad you are reading Swift, an admira- 
tion, however, most unfeminine. He was and is a 
giant among men, abounding and overflowing with 
those virile forces which make greatness. Read 
Thackeray's short essay on Swift while you are read- 
ing his works. . . . 

Do you still want my ideas of a course of classical 
reading that would be light — just to dip in now and 
then but with some system? I would say Spenser's 
"Faerie Queen" — first two books, Bacon's short es- 
says, Milton's "Areopagitica," Izaak Walton's "Com- 

Early Letters i 893-1910 43 

pleat Angler," "Jeremy Taylor's "Christian Living 
and Dying," The Spectator, Swift, Goldsmith — I 
mention things you are not likely to have read. Of 
course you are familiar with Shakespeare and Milton 
and also all that's worth reading of Dryden, Pope, 
and others as well known. You ought to know and 
enjoy the lyrics of the Golden Age. I will send 
you the collections of Palgrave; the "Golden Treas- 
ury," and Percy's "Reliques." Most people don't even 
know the names of Lodge, Beaumont and Fletcher, 
Drummond, Dekker, Carey, Lovelace, Wither, 
Vaughan, Herbert and many other sweet singers of 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries ; yet they have 
never been equaled for lyric elegance, melody and ex- 
quisite fancy. Of course you know pretty well the 
latter-day lights, — Burns, Cowper, Thomson, Words- 
worth, Coleridge, Shelley, Tennyson, Byron, etc. There 
is no book so valuable in English reading as Taine. 
You can pick his work up, read up on a particular 
author for an hour, then start in to read with a fair 
conception of the nature of his genius and the spirit 
of his times ... I hope you like Keats. He is one 
of my favorites. Read "St. Agnes Eve" first, then 
"Ode to a Grecian Urn" and "To a Nightingale," then 
"Damia" and the sonnets. Two of the latter are the 
most perfect examples in the language — one, "On 
First Opening Chapman's Homer" and the other 
"Keats' Last Sonnet." I'm glad you like Sir Philip 
Sidney. Do you remember his sonnet on sleep ? Read 
it again. I think it is the perfectest of all. 

I wish I could do what you have the opportunity 

44 A Memoir and Letters 

of doing in Washington. There is no greater pleas- 
ure than getting out of the beaten track in litera- 
ture and discovering treasures for oneself. Still be 
cautious. If you load your small head with too 
much knowledge, it might burst under the pressure. 
. . . The atmosphere here is not so stimulating. 
There is nothing so hopelessly unrelievable as the 
stupidity of a provincial town . . . 

After his marriage in 1895 life in this same pro- 
vincial town became so full of duties and responsi- 
bilities that there was little time for dullness. Not 
many letters mark this period. 

In 1896 when Mr. Edmonson's health forced him 
to retire from the practice of law Mr. Bennett Hill 
was taken into partnership by Mr. Dabney. Upon 
the retirement of Mr. Hill in 1905 the firm became 
Dabney & Townsend and this partnership lasted for 
thirteen years with mutual satisfaction and affection. 

Leading a busy and happy existence in a small town, 
few events of interest stand out in these early years 
beyond those that constitute his family life. In 1897 
his first child, Elizabeth Carrington, was born. When 
there was expressed a mild disappointment that she 
was not a son, he rose gallantly to her defense and 
said with great feeling, "As for me, a little daughter 
was what I wanted all along/' and between this daugh- 
ter and himself a deep devotion existed always. In 
January, 1899, his son was born. In this same month 
a son was also born to his brother, Samuel Dabney. 

Early Letters i 893-1910 45 

For a month the two babies were nameless while the 
two fathers discussed the question of which should be 
the namesake of their father, Robert Lewis Dabney. 
The elder brother finally had the honor of bestowing 
the name on his son, as is here indicated. 

To Samuel B. Dabney, Esq., 
Victoria, Texas. 

February 23, 1899. 

Dear Sam: Yours received. I would be glad to 
name our boy Robert — one of the two should bear 
that honored name — but if you preempt it and will 
raise your boy in the fear of the Lord, belief in Cal- 
vinism and in Freedom, you may have the name. As 
you are going to call your son Robert Lewis, I will 
let Stella choose a name for ours. I have no other 
preference and suppose we may consider the matter 
of name settled. . . . 

Samuel Dabney alwa)^s thought there was an arriere 
pensee involved in his brother's hesitation, and when 
the son's name was announced as Lewis Meriwether 
Dabney, Jr., he was sure of it. 

In the spring of 1900, a severe case of grippe fol- 
lowed by a relapse, necessitated a stay of a month 
in West Texas at which time this letter was written 
from the Ft. Davis Mountains. 

Marfa, Texas, 
May 24, 1900. 

. . . The weather here is beautiful, clear and dry, 
the altitude thirty-seven hundred feet and my cough is 

46 A Memoir and Letters 

improving every day. There is a good doctor here who 
was a surgeon in the United States Army and an 
educated and agreeable gentleman, so I think I am 
in good hands if this infernal grippe would just let 
up. They must call it that because it takes a grip on 
a man's vitals and won't let go. But I think I 
shall soon be able to come home which I so much 
desire. . . . 

This is an unsophisticated community; morally and 
otherwise. Everything is wide open. In the saloon 
attached to this hotel a Monte game patronized by 
Caballeros from across the river runs at one table 
and I have seen the deputy sheriff taking a hand at 
cards at another while the County Attorney leaned 
against the bar and overlooked the whole thing with 
paternal approval. They used to say there was no 
law west of the Pease river and I think there is none 
west of the Pecos. . . . 

I went to Juarez the other day, the first time I ever 
set foot on foreign soil. . . . 

His almost fatherly tone to his elder brothers is in- 
dicated in an extract from a letter to President Charles 
Dabney at the University of Tennessee, referring to 
his brother Samuel's contemplated removal from the 
practice of law in Victoria, Texas. 

June 17, 1904. 

. . . I do not agree with you that any man is "too 
good for the law." I want to use every influence I 
have to establish Sam in one of our larger cities where 

Early Letters i 893-1910 47 

he will have some scope for the exercise of his great 
talents. The higher branches of the practice are open 
and waiting for immaculate, honorable men and they 
are most useful there for the same reason that good 
citizens are most useful in politics, where they should 
serve instead of perching themselves on pinnacles and 
saying it is too dirty for them and so letting bums and 
tramps run the government. . . . 

He later gave up this position in regard to politics 
in despair. 

The next letter is a frank brotherly criticism of 
the first installment of a novel begun by Samuel 
Dabney but never finished. 

To S. B. Dabney 

November 14, 1904. 

My dear Brother: Your letter was received with 
installment of your story which I have read with the 
greatest care. You ask for a frank criticism such 
as I would give to the work of any other person and 
I comply with your wishes. I fully understand, how- 
ever, that a person might be a perfect connoisseur in 
any form of art and yet be entirely unable to model 
the simplest figure in clay or draw a head in crayon, — 
Ruskin, for example could neither draw nor paint. A 
man might be perfectly able to judge the cabinet work 
of Boule or Chippendale at a glance and yet be unable 
to construct a goods box. In undertaking to criticize 
your work at all, I fully remember what Swift says 
about critics, that they are like the asses the Athenians 

48 A Memoir and Letters 

turned out in the vineyards to prune the vines by 
cropping them and which were of great benefit for 
this purpose though utterly without sense themselves. 

No one could say whether a plot was good or bad, 
strong or weak, until the whole was before him. 
Whether you have the talent to write a good short 
story like Thomas Nelson Page and Joel Chandler 
Harris or the talent for sustained composition nec- 
essary in the longer story of life drama called the novel 
or neither, I cannot pass on in advance. I can only 
say that from the installment you sent me there is 
promise of great interest, but I perceive a certain 
stiffness not natural to you and which I can not pre- 
cisely define. 

The characters and descriptions introduced in your 
narrative are too abrupt and disconnected, lacking in 
clearness and elaboration. Every character of suffi- 
cient prominence to occupy the centre of your puppet 
stage should be introduced and described with his sur- 
roundings definitely, clearly, fully and once for all. 
You have rather scattered in this, than concentrated. 
This is most important and should be worked out with 
brevity, it is true, but fully and completely so that 
scenes and characters may stand out and be possessed 
in their entirety by the reader. 

In order to make clear to you what I mean as to 
your introduction, I recommend you to take Balzac's 
"Cousin Pons" and read the first five or six pages. 
This is the greatest novel ever written, taking into 
consideration literary workmanship, realism, dramatic 
plot, unity, and all the features of the old Greek drama. 

Early Letters 1893- 19 io 49 

It is a masterpiece beyond our emulation just as Othello 
is beyond Clyde Fitch. There is the perfect literary 
workmanship — the principal character and the en- 
vironment put on the canvas in clear, bold, simple 
strokes, outlines vivid and unmistakable, without pro- 
lixity — yet not a line left out. 

I don't say that I have seen nothing better than the 
"Bed of Justice" you describe held by Mrs. Carring- 
ton and the subsequent description of Cicero, and his 
dog, but I do say that when you have taken out a cer- 
tain stiffness, thrown in a little light and shade and 
some description of the background, there will be 
nothing better among alleged Southern novels. You 
must remember that though you, yourself, know in- 
timately the background of the period which you de- 
scribe, the majority of your readers will be people 
who know nothing of that environment. Go ahead 
with the book and when you get through with it we 
will know whether you have the faculty of sustained 
effort, whether we will have to boil it down or on the 
contrary fatten the lad up. 

Do not attempt to do your writing late at night 
after a day of hard legal work. Remember it is neces- 
sary to wait upon the Muse and not hurry inspiration. 
These divine ladies retire early and must be caught 
fresh in the morning. When it is all done we will go 
over it with a pair of shears, trim it up, wash its face, 
brush its hair, then submit it to some trained reader 
who knows the tricks of the trade and of connected 
composition. You are starting a little late in life at 
this kind of thing, but I think you have something in 

50 A Memoir and Letters 

you worth putting on paper and these criticisms are 
offered with the greatest affection and belief in your 
capacity and desire to see it shown at its best. Yours 


To Charles W. Dabney, 
President of the University of Cincinnati. 

November 3, 1909. 

My Dear Charles: Your last letter was received 
to-day. . . . 

The Texas State Fair had one of the biggest days in 
its history on Taf t Day and the merchants did an enor- 
mous trade. The President made his speech at the 
Fair Grounds and as I was on the reception com- 
mittee I sat only six feet away and could hear well 
what he had to say. It was mainly a " jolly." I at- 
tended the banquet that night and sat in front of him. 
He made another good jolly talk and favored us with 
his celebrated laugh several times. 

As a matter of fact, we are a little down on him 
in this part of the country at present, though we think 
he means to be a good fellow. But he is too fat and 
his digestion is too perfect ! No doubt, after a hearty 
meal he really believes that Aldrich is a faithful friend 
of the poor people and can see the outline of a halo 
around his venerable head, but the impression is other- 
wise in this state of cotton planters. 

Harmon has made a fine impression in Texas and 
people are talking of him as good Presidential timber. 
He must be pretty active for I notice that the Bryan 

Early Letters i 893-1910 51 

machine is attacking him everywhere. Thus the war 
dance goes on ! . . . 

One of the questions which interested Mr. Dabney 
was the adjustment of the machinery of Texas courts 
and the reform of the rules of practice and procedure. 
He felt that many of the practices that bound the 
courts were inherited from pioneer days and were 
long obsolete. At the annual meeting of the Texas 
Bar Association in 19 10 Mr. Dabney was asked to 
speak on the Reform of Practice in the Courts of 
Texas. The following address embodying an al- 
legorical and ironical treatment of the subject was de- 
livered at the Twenty-ninth Annual Meeting of the 
Association at San Angelo, July 5th and 6th, and was 
widely distributed. It left an influence for reform 
whose end is not yet seen. This is evidenced by an 
article in the Dallas News of June 15, 1924, from 
which the following quotation is made : "Mr. Rhodes 
Baker's treatment of the subject of reform of the 
machinery of the courts of Texas/ though entirely 
serious, was reminiscent of that delightful but pro- 
found satire 'Pleadings and Practice in the Land of 
Canaan' presented by Lewis M. Dabney of Dallas at 
the meeting of the State Bar Association in 19 10. 
This paper of Mr. Dabney's remains a classic in the 
literature of Texas." 

*An address delivered before the Law Department of the University 
of Texas. 

52 A Memoir and Letters 


Some months ago our vice president requested me to 
make some remarks before this Association on reform of 
practice in the courts of Texas. Rashly I agreed and 
seriously undertook the task, but only to find myself 
incapable of making one suggestion which could refine the 
pure gold or paint the lily of our judicial system. Being- 
informed that no other victim could be found to fill the 
time allotted me, I concluded to amuse, if not instruct, this 
body by an account of practice in the neighboring state 
of Canaan, to whose leading city, "Saints' Rest," I was 
recently called by business. Being justly proud of our own 
system of accurate, swift, inexpensive, and sure adminis- 
tration of justice, I desired to institute comparisons with 
Canaan. Briefly I lay before you the facts : 

Canaan, like Texas, is large in area, mainly agricultural 
in its population, originally settled by a pure Anglo-Saxon 
race derived from our Southern and Southwestern states. 
The fathers of Canaan were strong men, having the virtues 
and the faults peculiar to their breed, bringing with them 
exaggerated ideas of individual freedom and firmly be- 
lieving that the right of local self-government existed 
unimpaired under every man's hat ; the rugged individuality 
of the people was intensified into a passion by the struggle 
to clear the country of the terror of the savage tyranny 
of aliens, and later, by the second revolution which freed 
the state from the domination of the jungle race. Such 
a population was impatient of restraint by law not directly 
sanctioned by their own wills and fiercely jealous of any 
limitations of their right of manhood suffrage, even in 
the selection of administrators of the recondite science of 
the law, and jealous of removal of the exercise of gov- 
ernmental functions far from the people. Their nisi prius, 
as well as appellate judges, were elected for short terms. 

Address before Texas Bar Association 53 

The common law and equity jurisprudence of their fathers 
was adopted and both systems administered together in 
one court, modified by certain wise principles of the Spanish 
civil law. The application of this body of laws was com- 
mitted to judges elected by their neighbors under simple 
rules of procedure. These rules in the hands of a clear 
thinking, learned and independent Judge produced results 
well suited to the community. An independent and vig- 
orous electorate chose strong and vigorous Judges and 
the body of laws produced by their labors is justly regarded 
as the peculiar glory of Canaan. Honor to their memory! 
While suffrage was nominally unrestricted, political power 
was in the hands of the dominant white race, and exercised 
mainly by independent freeholders, and the body of the 
electorate was deeply imbued with noble Christian civiliza- 
tion, moral and conservative political traditions of the Old 

In this simple and unspoiled community was developed 
the judicial system now in force and practically unchanged. 
Well suited to primitive conditions these institutions remain, 
but commercial, social, and political changes have so modi- 
fied their application that what was once Canaan's boast 
has become an intolerable grievance and burden. You are 
so familiar with the history of that state that a word will 
bring before you the principal features and causes of these 
changes. The negro and carpet bag domination following 
the Civil War was removed, but not without leaving scars 
upon the public conscience; fire was fought with fire and 
fraud retorted with fraud and violence. Necessity, indeed, 
but the general political rectitude of the community was 
lowered in tone. Railways came, cities grew, commerce 
expanded, great corporations of all kinds appeared. The 
homogeneous population of self-respecting farmers was 
adulterated with lower strains and greed of wealth became 
a dominant passion and political and private standards 
naturally decayed. A judicial system which fairly met the 

54 A Memoir and Letters 

needs and adjusted the disputes of a simple agricultural 
state creaked, groaned, and broke down under the strain 
of a complex, modern civilization. These causes alone 
would account for the decrepitude of the courts, for it is 
naturally as impossible to despatch the legal business of 
a modern state with the machinery of 1845 as t0 carry its 
merchandise and products upon ox carts. Canaan has sub- 
stituted the bank for the old sock ; railways for the Mexican 
cart, with its team of longhorns ; the telephone and telegraph 
for the pony express ; the typewriter for the quill pen ; but, 
thanks to moss-grown apathy and conservatism of the legal 
profession, the judicial machinery of the Pliocene Age 
remains grinding the bones of those unfortunates who 
become entangled in its cogs. 

But even if the old rattle-trap machine was still 
equal to the burdens placed upon it, Justice never was and 
never will be dispensed by machinery alone. Upon the 
lever must be the hand of a man, a Judge, learned, high- 
minded, upright, independent and with a backbone. 

Unfortunately, the antiquity of Canaan's judicial ma- 
chinery is not its only defect. While in the city of Saints' 
Rest I diligently prosecuted my inquiries and will briefly 
give you what I learned. 

Canaan has not failed to provide its citizens with courts 
and Judges, and the aggregate salaries and fees paid are 
said to exceed the cost of the whole Judiciary of either 
England, France or the Empire of Germany, though 
Canaan's population scarcely exceeds 4,000,000. Its "out- 
lay" for the administration of justice and bedevilment of 
its suffering citizens is indicated in the following summary. 
Canaan's Comptroller could give no figures as to the exact 
compensation paid its County Judges and Justices of the 
Peace in fees, but these figures are believed to be inside 
the facts : 

Address before Texas Bar Association 55 

239 County Courts and Judges paid by fees, estimated total 

received $250,000 

71 District Courts and Judges, salary $3,000 213,000 

6 Intermediate Courts of Appeal, generally known as the 

high courts of error, with 3 Judges each at $3,500 63,000 

1 Supreme Court with 3 Judges at $4,000 12,000 

1 Court of Criminal Appeals with 3 Judges at $4,000 12,000 

1,000 (estimated) Justice Courts with 1,000 Squires, fees esti- 
mated at $500 each 500.000 

Grand Total $1,050,000 

But this is not all; every one of these courts, except 
Justices, has a clerk and the District Courts a stenog- 
rapher, with a gallant band of deputies; and back of 
this an army of sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, constables and 
deputy constables, masters, auditors, and what not, all 
hungry, all active as fleas, all biting and blood-sucking 
the body politic. As Canaan, with wise economy, pays 
its clerks, sheriffs and constables more liberally than its 
Judges, it is probable that these patriots charge the public 
for their services in the merry game of justice so-called, 
not less than $1,500,000 per annum. But this is not all; 
attending upon these courts from Justice to Districts are 
jury panels of from six to twenty- four men (not to speak 
of special venires) drawing from fifty cents to $2 per day, 
mainly paid from the public taxes. But this was far from 
the end of the chapter. While the public footed most of 
the above bill, that unfortunate wretch, the litigant, from 
the moment the jaws of the mill close on him till his 
mangled remains emerge from the spout, is stuck for costs, 
witness fees, stenographers' fees, clerk's cost, sheriff's costs, 
statements of facts, transcript, briefs, copy upon copy, 
iteration and re-iteration, each more damnable- fangs reach- 
ing to strike from every corner, and claws to rend, with 
delay upon delay most costly of all. Moderate men have 
estimated the whole devilish machinery extracts from the 
citizens of Canaan, tax payers and litigants included, from 

56 A Memoir and Letters 

three and one-half to five million dollars per annum, and 
this is not including lawyers' fees, which, however, are 
small and becoming smaller, for how can there be anything 
left for a lawyer after a client is ground in this mill? 
Truly, so far as courts and functionaries would serve, 
Canaan keeps the promise of her bill of rights, that "Every 
person for an injury done him in his lands ? goods, person, 
or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law." 
However, no price is too high for Justice, that noblest of 
God's attributes, and so lavishly did Canaan pay the bill 
that I surely expected to find results commensurate in 
certainty, swiftness and purity of the article dispensed. 

Seeking to ascertain how it all worked, imagine my sur- 
prise to find differences of opinion as to causes, but none 
as to results. The bar, the press, the merchant, and even 
the bench, unite in the verdict that conditions are intolerable 
and the system a costly and almost worthless burden. 

It was my privilege to attend the annual session of the 
Bar Association of Saints' Rest, and the principal subject 
of discussion was the necessity of reform. Many were the 
suggestions made, but still no great light was shed upon 
the subject, and as usual the sitting broke up with compli- 
ments from the bench to the bar, and bar to the bench, 
and each to themselves, together with the usual resolution 
that something must be done. But still seeking informa- 
tion, an eminent member of the Saints' Rest bar suggested 
that I call upon an old lawyer, now an inmate of an asylum 
for the insane, who had for years bored and buttonholed 
on the subject of reform of practice, and finally in a burst 
of violent mania proclaimed that courts should not be shops 
of grinding cost, squeezing clients, heartbreaking delay and 
denial of justice splitting hairs, making jobs for small 
politicians, nor yet places where the prejudices of an unjust 
mob were transmitted into verdict and judgment under the 
forms of law, estates skinned by the machinery of receiver- 
ships, parasites fattened, all resulting in confusion, muddle, 
botheration, reversal, retrial, re-muddling and new appeals, 

Address before Texas Bar Association 57 

sound and fury signifying nothing, from which a litigant 
emerged happy if he emerged with his toe-nails: but rather, 
said he, a court should be a place where God's justice is done 
on this earth, and that speedily, inflexibly, and inexpen- 
sively. For which heretical opinions he was properly seized, 
tried and incarcerated. Him I visited in his padded cell, 
and from him gained much light, though flickering, fitful, 
and uncertain as influenced by his monomania. Let it be 
understood that the opinions of this afflicted man are not 
mine; many of them I abhor and repudiate. In order that 
there may be no misconception, permit me to obtrude the 
personal element for a moment, and state those political 
principles which I regard as the basis of good government 
as well as the proper administration of justice. 

1. The voice of the people is the voice of God. 

2. Universal suffrage and frequent popular elections are 
the palladiums of our liberties and the specific for all political 

3. The body of the people is the repository not only of 
political power, but of universal wisdom ; hence, the solution 
of all questions, general or individual should be committed 
to a primary election, or if that be impossible, to a jury, 
which should be untrammelled by technicalities and free 
from impertinent interference of special knowledge. 

4. Judicial officers should be elected by the people of 
their districts for short terms, and paid small salaries. 
This renders them quickly responsive to the popular will 
(whose expression is the voice of God), gives flexibility 
to the interpretation of the laws, and by a wholesome 
poverty of the Judiciary, prevents the growth of an 
aristocracy of the robe so odious in a Republican State. 

5. Civilization begins and ends at the plow (so long as 
agriculturists constitute a numerical majority). 

6. The true end of government is to diffuse its blessings 
among the greatest number possible, therefore, there should 
be a multitude of offices and officials with frequent changes, 

58 A Memoir and Letters 

so that the greatest number may feed from the public crib. 
This renders government costly and inefficient, but the 
people won't notice it if individual salaries are small, or 
better still, officials are paid by fees. 

7. Last and greatest canon of all, "Whatever is, is 

Having so declared my own unalterable convictions, I 
will briefly give you the observations of my sorely afflicted 
friend, it being understood that what follows is merely a 
faithful transcription, not an endorsement of his remarks. 

He said that popular disfavor had wrought its worst 
upon him, and, therefore, he could freely state, but without 
malice, what many thought and what some one ought to 
say, if but a man considered mentally unsound. It is well 
known that the fierce Democracy of Canaan has from early 
days esteemed as its dearest right the privilege of electing 
its officials, including Judges from the vicinage for short 
terms. Judicial salaries are small, the Judges of the prin- 
cipal nisi prius courts receiving $3,000 per annum. 

In the early days the system worked well, for the electors 
were independent freeholders ; litigation concerned the dis- 
putes of a pastoral community, land boundaries and the 
collection of debt, and juries were well qualified to settle 
controversies between neighbors. At that time salaries 
paid, in purchasing power, were fairly equal to the incomes 
of successful lawyers, and campaign expenses were un- 
known. Times changed, and with them the nature and 
avocations of the masses, as also social and commercial 
conditions, controversies ceased to be between neighbors, 
but concerned complicated commercial litigation and prin- 
cipally demands by the individual against great corporations. 
Juries, which formerly entered the box with impartial dis- 
positions toward their friends and neighbors, the plaintiff 
and defendant, now brought with them the ineradicable 
prejudice shared with the mass of the people against the 
corporate or wealthy defendant. The jealousy of the 

Address before Texas Bar Association 59 

people of their right to elect and to rule was at worst a noble 
weakness of independent and highminded freeholders in the 
old days. As the mass became adulterated and commercial 
and social conditions changed, this became a string upon 
which the rising swarms of politicians played with cunning 
and effect, as also upon the common prejudices against 
wealth, particularly in corporate form. Elected by appeals 
to passion, the executive officers of the State deteriorated 
in character and it became a political gospel, that no man 
was worthy of the suffrages of the sovereign people who 
was not willing, hat in hand, to proclaim himself the slave 
not only of their wishes, but of their whims and passions. 

Canaan is and has been for years dominated by one 
political party, so there were usually no real issues, hence 
candidates competed with each other upon personalities, 
sometimes degenerating into abuse, and too often his was 
the victory whose promised servility and handshaking ability 
was the greatest. With such beliefs permeating the electo- 
rate, it could be a matter of time only that politicians of 
the legal persuasion would grasp at the offices of the bench 
and seek them by practice of the low arts seen to be so 
efficacious in other cases. Let it be said here that but a 
few of these judicial demagogues have reached the bench 
in Canaan. Thank God, the old breed is not dead, and 
most of the lower, and all of the higher courts are still 
filled by honorable, upright, and learned men. But the 
gospel of personal solicitation for all offices and rotation 
therein is abroad, and with resistless force the mob of 
demagogues is pressing to the assault and capture of the 
court houses of the land. 

Those who remember Canaan twenty years ago will bear 
me out in saying that the change for the worse, though 
slow, is steady and resistless, and as the old-time Judge has 
worn out with his labors and fallen, too often his successor 
is of the new stripe. Honor the greater to that dwindling 
band who, in poverty and hard toil, looking forward each 

6o A Memoir and Letters 

four years to a wrestle with the legal demagogues for their 
places, feeling the fingers of their little ones tugging at their 
skirts and hearing their voices saying, "Father, who is to 
give us bread?" Age coming upon them, opportunity de- 
parting, yet striving as best they can to hold high their 
ideals of truth and justice. Those are the noblest figures 
in our state, and such still are the majority of the District 
judges of Canaan. But the handwriting is on the wall, the 
ax is laid to the root of the tree, the handshakers are in 
the saddle, and little David is coming up with the sling of 
demagoguery; the veteran must fall amid the plaudits of 
the hosts of Canaan; that is unless David's sling is taken 
from him. 

While the salary of this high office of District Judge is 
exactly the wage scale of a journeyman plumber, $8 per day, 
it is not to be supposed that he is permitted to spend the 
whole in riotous living, for he is the peculiar prey to all 
mendicants, political, pious, and unsaved, and every four 
years he must meet the hunter of his scalp on his own 
ground at a cost of perhaps one-half of that year's salary. 
Besides, there must be deducted his expenses of travel and 
maintenance, if he goes on circuit. 

Degenerated as the practice of the District Courts is 
from its ancient standards, it is wonderful that it is not 
worse, for a band of shining angels could hardly be expected 
to keep them up when subjected to such grinding pressure. 
Having stated the unfortunate situation in which the Judge 
finds himself, let us consider the way in which cases are 
too often tried in his court. The substantive law of Canaan 
is a noble code, the work of jurists whose names will be 
long honored and whose abstract principles are still correctly 
expounded by an able appellate bench. The fountain of 
justice remains in all its crystal purity, but unless conveyed 
to him, the thirsty soul will perish in sight of its healing 
waters. Practice, or the law of application, is the system 
of its distribution, its two branches, pleading and evidence. 
Pleading makes the way straight, evidence removes the 

Address before Texas Bar Association 6i 

muddy impurities. The function of the court is by the 
application of the rules of pleading and evidence to remove 
the immaterial, simplify the real issues of the case and 
present them to the jury so that plain men may be able to 
determine the issues of fact thus simply placed before them. 
These rules, misnamed technicalities, are the means by 
which justice is attained with swiftness, economy, and 
dispatch, and with the best prospects of a final and satis- 
factory disposition of controversy. 

Now, let us see how too many cases are tried in the Dis- 
trict Courts of Canaan. The judge, let us say of the better 
type, must consciously or unconsciously have his ear to the 
ground and yield somewhat to the fact that little David 
is out in the brush telling the people that he has had four 
years' salary, $12,000, the price of a good farm, and ought 
to be jarred loose from the people's taxes ; besides, "he 
ain't a friend of the people nohow, and decided a case in 
favor of a railroad against Uncle Hiram Johnson. Ask 
Uncle Hiram if it ain't so." 

The long, rambling unskill fully constructed petition is 
read and fourteen good demurrers to it, the pleadings have 
not been settled, plaintiff's attorney is a poor lawyer, but 
a strong politician. The Court hesitates, he can without 
doing violence to his conscience so rule, and he says, "I 
won't rule on the demurrers now ; I'll control that in my 
charge." The jury is in the box, baker, butcher, candle- 
stick maker, every man of superior intelligence or character 
challenged out so far as possible by the lawyer with the 
wrong side of the case. The frail bark of justice is 
launched by his honor on uncharted seas and with the 
watchword, "Let her rip," the dog fight commences. 

A witness takes the stand; an objection is made; the 
Court hesitates; both lawyers harangue and wrangle, half 
their remarks aimed at the jury; cart loads of books are 
brought in, thumbed and expounded ; one lawyer is about 
to prevail by mere weight of calfskin when a decision is 

62 A Memoir and Letters 

brought in from the Court of Civil Appeals for the 
Hawaiian Islands, Fourth Division of Oahu, and again 
the scales of justice waver. Finally the court says, "I will 
let the evidence in for what it's worth and if I think it 
improper, I will instruct the jury to disregard it." 

The pow-wow proceeds ; the witness is cross-examined 
and under the skillful probing of defendant's counsel is 
about to tell the truth — perilous moment ; counsel for plain- 
tiff is instantly on his feet, and in the course of a long, 
passionate harangue fully instructs the witness of the pit- 
fall before him. The question, however, is finally ad- 
mitted, but the witness saved. Refreshed, like a giant, he 
proceeds with his perjury, retreating from the snare. 

Finally, when the trial is half over, the Court and plain- 
tiff's attorney discover that all the demurrers were well 
taken and the case proceeding on false theories. Under 
his sound discretion the Court permits plaintiff to amend, 
and carefully instructs the jury not to consider what has 
been dinned into their ears for hours or days (as if im- 
pressions upon the human mind could be sponged out like 
letters on a blackboard), and the agony goes on. 

But all things end, even trials in Canaan, and the court 
is ready for the crowning farce ; he is about to deliver his 
charge to the jury. Not only has he to brush out of the 
case all of the rubbish accumulated in the last four or five 
days but in Canaan so lofty is the general opinion of the 
mental acuteness of a jury that the Court must not in the 
least assist by furnishing to them the proper guides whereby 
they may weigh and disentangle the evidence, but must 
give them an abstract disquisition upon the principles of 
law, applicable to every issue, with definitions, limitations 
and exceptions. This document the jury is to apply to the 
well-muddled facts and render a verdict. If the jury were 
twelve professors of jurisprudence of exceptional metaphys- 
ical training, they might do so successfully, but not being 
such, they pay as much attention to it and understand it as 

Address before Texas Bar Association 63 

little as a page from the Choctaw New Testament, and 
decide the case or hang, in accordance with their prejudices 
or their common sense, as the case may be. 

This, in Canaan, is what remains of the common law 
jury trial, wherein issues first discriminated, simplified and 
analyzed by trained minds are presented to the jury to be 
decided with the assistance of a learned and impartial 
Judge, who may guide and instruct with his experience, 
but must not control a verdict. But to follow our trial. 
The defendant is soaked; but this is no surprise to him, his 
counsel or anybody else, the result being predetermined, if 
said defendant is one of a certain unpopular class. But let 
him be of good cheer, his turn has come. His counsel has 
thoughtfully accumulated about fifty bills of exceptions 
and assigned seventeen erroneous features in the charge. 
Some of them are bound to be good, for Coke nor Marshal 
could try a case in this way without prejudicial error, or 
dance on the slack wire of a Canaanitish charge without 
splitting the judicial trousers or hitting the ground. 

The Court overrules the motion for a new trial with the 
formula, "The Court is in some doubt, but I'll let them 
settle it upstairs." Defendant's attorney has prepared a bale 
of papers called the "Transcript," containing a statement 
of what by legal euphemism are called the facts, the 
fifty bills of exceptions aforesaid, some two hundred as- 
signments of error, pleadings, judgment, motion for a new 
trial and what not, pays the clerk $90 for it, there being 
about $600 involved in the case, has a brief printed 100 
pages long, repeating nearly everything in the transcript, 
files it with the Intermediate Court of Errors and rests 
from his labors. 

It is to be remembered that similar bales of papers are 
tumbling on this court from every quarter of the State. 
Wearied, bedeviled, and overworked, it takes a look at 
transcript brief, and sees that assignment of errors No. 187 
is obviously well taken, and back she goes. Counsel for 

64 A Memoir and Letters 

appellant laid for the trial Judge on that point, and got the 
hooks in him. The other 199 assignments are not passed 
on, as they could not be in a moderate lifetime, and the 
war dance is on in the District Court again, with plenty of 
points undecided to snag the Judge with. Up and down it 
goes like a seesaw, piling costs on costs, labor on labor. 

But suppose the litigants do not die, become insane or 
wisely compromise the case and quit ; finally both lawyers' 
bags of tricks are emptied and the case is decided in the 
Appellate Court. Here come into play certain rules called 
presumptions by which the court is bound as a court, but 
as men know to be false as all men in Canaan know. The 
evidence is overwhelming and convincing one way : the jury 
has decided the other. The court presumes that the jury 
sedately and deliberately weighed the testimony, observed 
the demeanor of the witnesses and conscientiously rejected 
the mass of testimony on one side and accepted the scintilla 
on the other. As a matter of fact, they have done nothing 
of the kind, the defendant being of the unpopular class, 
and would not, except under the pressure of a peremptory 
charge, but such is the sanctity of a jury verdict in Canaan 
that the court clothing itself in falsities as in garment, must 
set its seal upon it. 

To bolster it up, the court further presumes that if the 
verdict of the jury had been really contrary to the weight 
of the evidence, the trial Judge would have set it aside, this 
being his peculiar function and plain duty. The Appellate 
Court must indulge this presumption as the Judge wouldn't 
do anything of the kind if he was a nisi prius Judge in 
Canaan. Defendant doesn't expect it. Another presump- 
tion is, that the jury have prayerfully considered, elucidated, 
and applied the metaphysical dissertation called the charge. 
This, of course, the excellent common sense of the jury 
has prevented. They would as readily understand a dis- 
sertation on integral calculus applied to the doctrine of 
strains. But perhaps it is wise to dispose of the whole 

Address before Texas Bar Association 65 

thing in this manner ; the Appellate Court can't help it, and 
it is more merciful sometimes to cut the jugular with one 
blow than to bleed the victim drop by drop with successive 

Lawyers and Judges may talk all they please of the 
beauties of the law, resent criticism, grow angry or evade 
the truth. But what is the verdict of the business man, 
the litigant, the bar, and the people? The masses regard 
the State courts with what may be called friendly contempt, 
the Judge a creature of their wills, the neutral umpire of 
an undignified scrap. How different their attitude to the 
Federal Courts, which they both respect and fear, as sinful 
man should fear the just magistrate "who beareth not the 
sword in vain." 

What a source of mortification to a believer in States 
Rights, and certain harbinger of the decay of the State and 
magnifying of the Federal power. Well did Jefferson say 
that the only hope of the continuance of the State is that 
it shall exercise its powers with strength and majesty. Men 
will have justice; civilized society must have it. If the State 
Courts are feeble and ineffectual, then men must turn to 
some other quarter for it. So will the love of State perish 
and the Empire appear upon the horizon. What says the 
business man? Squirm as you will, brother lawyers, but 
the intelligent man of business will readily part with half 
his just claim rather than chance your courts. 

And the bar? So protracted, laborious and interminable 
have trials become, so indecisive and uncertain, that while 
fees remain the same or smaller, the time expended in this 
heartbreaking muddle called litigation is so great that a 
lawyer can not make day wages out of it without robbing 
his client. In consequence, those who are so fortunate 
as to be able to do so, withdraw from court practice, assum- 
ing to their clients the position of legal bacteriologists, 
whose trade is to so fortify by anti-toxins that the racking, 
wasting, death-dealing fever of litigation may be avoided. 

66 A Memoir and Letters 

Pleading has perished: evidence is on the way, and: the 
great art of the advocate is becoming a lost one. 

"But," said I, to my venerable informant, "without at 
all agreeing with your pessimistic statement, is any remedy 
offered and do you suggest any?" He replied that many 
remedies are offered. Some of the bar think that the 
"general denial" is the criminal, and if destroyed, all would 
be well. Others proposed that defensive pleadings should 
be under oath, as if by swearing they could add a cubit to 
the judicial stature. Others believed that the way to settle 
it was to fill the jury up with immaterialities, side remarks, 
false issues, politics, and prejudice, as at present but im- 
prove conditions by permitting them to retire and hold a 
primary and decide by majority vote. Still others thought 
that it would be well to bring up the whole mess to the 
Appellate Courts and let them pass on it, and affirm regard- 
less of error if, in their opinion, on the whole, justice had 
been done. But none of these gentlemen proposed that the 
case should be reversed, if in the opinion of the higher court 
justice had not been done; their proposal being that the 
Appellate Court should indulge every presumption in favor 
of the verdict, saying to the litigant who had been 
kangarooed below, "Peace, knave; you annoy us with your 
outcry; you are skinned; stay skinned." It seemed that one 
eminent jurist succeeded in having his pet reform enacted, 
eliminating all rules of pertinency and materiality of evi- 
dence, and providing that testimony, material or immaterial, 
hearsay, old wives' tales, or opinion, should go in without 
let or hindrance. 

My insane friend furnished me with a transcript of 
the evidence in the case of Simmons vs. Jones, the first 
and only one tried under this code, involving the sale of 
a red heifer, and from it I am able to give you a portion 
of the plaintiff's testimony. Mrs. Simmons being sworn 
and requested by counsel to give her name, age and resi- 

Address before Texas Bar Association 67 

dence and state everything she knew bearing on the case 
proceeded as follows : 

"My name is Sophy Simmons; most folks round the 
forks where I live calls me Aunt Sophy ; as fer my age, I'm 
old enough to know better, as Abner used to say. He was 
my husband; he was killed by a thrasher 'bout ten years 
ago. The Hoopole boys had their thrashing outfit down 
on our place, and Paw was feeding her. Paw had real 
long whiskers, and they got caught on the thrasher and 
drawed him in. They didn't have no axe nor coal chisel 
nor nothing to cut his whiskers, and it just thrashed him to 
death. He was a Baptist; tuck after his maw's folks in 
that, and turned blue all over and died in the hope of a 
glorious resurrection. My two daughters, they was gals, 
stood right there and seen it. My folks was all Methodists. 
What's that Judge? Tell the facts about this case. Well, 
I was just comin' to that. As I was sayin' to Sis Mandy 
Robinson no more'n a week ago, I was bilin' soap and she 
came over to my place to match quiltin' pieces. Ses I, Sis 
Robinson, you know I'm a woman that don't want nothin' 
but right and justice twix man and man, and I never 
would'er believed Deacon Jones would'er swindled me 
'bout that old red heifer — no, not if an angel come down 
and tole me — him a leadin' in meeting and prayin' about 
the widder and the orphan and heathen in furrin parts. 
Says she, Sis Simmons, I always told you not to trust no 
red headed man, specially if he was cock-eyed, even if he 
is a deacon, and I'd give him a course in the cote house if 
I was you. Yes, sir, Mr. Judge, and gentlemen, them was 
the very words she said, sittin' right by my soap biler, and 
I'm ready to swear it on a stack of Bibles." 

But enough, Aunt Sophy was still on the stand when the 
Legislature in special session repealed this code of evidence. 

These proposals, said my old friend, were but tinkering 
with the machinery, but did not touch the canker at the 
root. The necessary simplification of the machine could 

68 A Memoir and Letters 

easily be accomplished, and must be. But supposing the 
apparatus perfect, the necessary acts passed, would the 
words, "Be it enacted," usher in the millennium? In spite 
of our fond confidence in the efficacy of formulas and 
statutes, a court equipped with whatever apparatus, would 
not operate itself without a Judge. After all, 

"Men constitute a State 

And sovereign Law that State's collected will 
O'er thrones and globes elate 

Sits Empress crowning good, repressing ill, 
Smit by her sacred frown 

The fiend Discretion like a vapor sinks, 
And even the all-dazzling crown 

Hides his faint rays and at her bidding shrinks." 

How, then to provide the nisi prius courts with Judges, 
men with backbone, learned in the law and independent of 
politics? My friend said he had a plan, not original with 
him, but put forward for consideration and discussion. 

Sweep the Justice Courts into the dust bin and substitute 
for them a system of non-compulsory arbitration of con- 
troversies up to a small reasonable limit, this to be without 
cost, but a condition precedent to suit in court; judgment 
of arbitrators to be filed with the District Clerk and en- 
forced by writs out of that court. Usually the arbitration 
would settle the case, but if it did not, let the parties litigate 
in the District Court, but without appeal. This reform 
would at one blow dispose of the cost of these petty courts 
and their constables, perhaps $750,000. Then, abolish the 
County Courts, with their Judges, Clerks, and deputies, 
and effect a saving of perhaps $500,000 more. Retain the 
District as the one nisi prius court for trial of cases. There 
are now seventy-one District Judges in the State and 239 
County Judges, costing approximately $500,000. Substi- 
tute for these say, one hundred District Judges with a 
salary of at least $5000 per annum. Elect a sufficient num- 

Address before Texas Bar Association 69 

ber of these Judges at large from each of the supreme 
judicial districts of the state. Let District Clerks be ap- 
pointed by the Judges, having sufficient qualification in 
legal forms to despatch routine business, make and enter 
orders as of course, and take defaults in the absence of the 

Keep the courts open at all times, except short vacation, 
with rule days for defaults and answers each month. Let 
the Judges for each Supreme Judicial District meet from 
time to time and assign and divide the work. Keep the 
Judges circulating and away from "the boys" at home, 
several of them going where the docket is behind and divid- 
ing and cleaning it up. This would do away with the 
spectacle of one Judge doing nothing and another a year 
behind. One hundred District Judges would do this work 
for the state; that is, if they were real Judges, permitted 
under simple forms of procedure to despatch business ac- 
cording to the fundamental rules of pleading and evidence, 
and empowered to advise and direct, but not control the 

The most essential requisite to this reform is that Judges 
shall be elected from large districts. So large that it shall 
be impossible for any legal demagogue to shake every hand 
in it, however agile he may be. It may be stated as an 
axiom that under the present system the tendency is to select 
better Judges in the large districts and weaker in the small, 
where His Honor can get around and see "the boys." The 
fact, also, that the Appellate bench is not filled with hand- 
shakers is a further proof of the fact maintained. The 
people, if brought face to face with a candidate, will choose 
him by his obvious attractions, one not seen by his 

Conventions for the nomination of the Judiciary should 
be held separate from others and for no other purpose, and 
the Judiciary should be nonpartisan. The state should 
be divided into a sufficient number of probate districts, say 

yo A Memoir and Letters 

forty, with a Judge for each with a salary of not less than 
$4000. Their attention should be given exclusively to 
affairs of estates, minors, etc. 

Judges' terms of office should be not less than ten years, 
and they should be allowed their actual expenses when 
traveling. The Judge's office requires the finest trained 
legal acumen, the purest character, poise, balance and execu- 
tive ability. Men of this character cannot be permanently 
retained for the wages of a journeyman plumber, and that 
crawled for every four years. 

Above these courts and crowning the whole system should 
be one Supreme Court of nine members, with salaries of 
not less than $7500. But the abolition of six Appellate 
Courts, the Court of Criminal Appeals and their function- 
aries, would more than make up the raise in salaries, and 
curse of conflicting decisions would be done with. 

Appeals could be much simplified by cutting down the 
present bale of papers to a short application for writ of 
error, made by appellant's counsel on his professional honor, 
and the entire record ordered up to the Supreme Court 
only when this application was granted. With the District 
Court strengthened, as proposed, few appeals would be 
allowed, and only upon a strong showing, and the labors 
of the Appellate Bench kept within reasonable compass. 

"But why is it, conditions being such," I asked, "that 
the bar which suffers in its pocket by this enfeeblement of 
the courts, this killing of the litigant who lays the golden 
egg, so to speak, does not take some action to reform the 
system and raise their own business to dignity, honor, and 
efficiency again?" My informant replied that the reasons 
were numerous. 

1. A respectable portion of the bar are so soaked with 
form and precedent that they would see the whole judicial 
machinery break down and starve themselves rather than 
make a change. 

2. There is a vast army of functionaries and parasites 

Address before Texas Bar Association 71 

living upon the present bad and costly system, who would 
yell, kick, and struggle if dragged from the feed trough. 

3. The noble army of demagogues would resist on gen- 
eral principles, as they naturally would anything looking to 
the public uplift, or diminishing offices and expenses to the 

Finally, there are two large classes of lawyers; one occu- 
pying one side of the docket whose business is to enforce 
personal claims against corporations, the other taking the 
other side. Some of the baser of the first class believe 
they have an advantage in a weak court and mob trial, 
while, strange to say, some of the gentlemen on the other 
side agree in opposing reform, thinking they have an ad- 
vantage in the interminable delays of the present system, in 
wearing out all cases, just or unjust. No assistance is 
to be expected from either class until they experience a 
change of heart and approach reform with the purpose of 
promoting justice, not obtaining an advantage over each 

The proposed changes, of course, can only be effected 
through an amendment of the Constitution, which should 
provide that the Supreme Court shall be filled from its 
present membership, the members of the Court of Appeals, 
the appointment of three from the intermediate Courts of 
Appeals, the remainder of the Judges of these Courts with 
the necessary additions from the present district bench to 
fill the Judgeships in the new District and Probate Courts 
till the next election. Thus the change could be made with- 
out injustice to the present bench, and obtaining in the 
outset a trained body of jurists. 

Thus ended the observation of my demented friend. 
Bidding him an affectionate farewell, I asked one more 
question. "Will Canaan reform its practice?" 

"In an hundred years, probably/' said he, "and after 
the people have been bled for $200,000,000 more." 


LETTERS 1913-1915 

In the summer of 1908 Mr. Dabney spent his vaca- 
tion in Michigan and took a week's camping- and fish- 
ing trip with his brother Charles among the Thirty 
Thousand Islands in Georgian Bay. He was much de- 
lighted with the climate as well as impressed by the 
beauty of the Canadian Lakes and determined to spend 
another summer in Canada. 

Five years, however, elapsed before he put his plan 
into execution. In the summer of 19 13 he selected 
Beaumaris on the Muskoka Lakes for his outing and 
passed several weeks there happily with his family. 
He loved especially the soft Canadian nights with their 
long twilights. Looking out over the lake he would 
repeat Matthew Arnold's poem "Self Dependence," 
which was one of his oft-quoted favorites, 

"Once more I cried ye stars, ye waters: 
On my heart your mighty charm renew. 
Still, still let me as I gaze upon you 
Feel my soul becoming vast like you. 

From the intense blue star strewn vault of heaven 
O'er the lit seas' unquiet way 
Through the rustling night air came the answer 
Would'st thou be as these are — live as they." 


Letters 1913-1915 73 

and the last lines 

" Resolve to be thyself and know that he 
Who finds himself loses his misery." 

This poem he felt expressed not only beauty of thought 
but a lofty philosophy of life to which he subscribed. 

The following letter refers to this stay in Canada. 

To S. B. Dabney 

September 25, 1913. 

My Dearest Brother: I am just back in my office 
after an absence of six weeks. I am sorry I missed 
you at Cincinnati and that I did so was due to some- 
body's being a fool around the Railway office. As a 
matter of fact my train got in five minutes after you 
left the station with the misinformation that it was 
four hours late ! 

I had a fine vacation and rest in Canada. As you 
know, I spent five weeks with my family at Beaumaris 
on the Muskoka Lakes, a place with a delightful cli- 
mate, beautiful scenery and conditions as nearly 
ideal as can be found in this world. It was my design 
by exercise in the open air to correct the conditions 
which gave me so much trouble last winter and I feel 
sure I have benefited very much. It was soothing to 
my soul also to find a place absolutely ruled by the 
older people. There were only two or three spoiled 
young people, loud talkers and loud dressers about and 
they were thoroughly disliked. The people who have 
summer homes there are Canadians and Pittsburg peo- 

74 A Memoir and Letters 

pie of Scotch descent and mostly of a vivid blue Presby- 
terianism with as strict ideas about manners and be- 
havior as even you with your spartan ideas would 
dictate. As an echo from the Stone Age. I saw whole 
families going to church and worshiping together 
with apparent fervor. In Canada there are no Sunday 
dissipations and even Sunday golf is taboo. There 
was no gambling and no swearing around the place 
by boys or elders; in fact the only k 'cuss" word I heard 
while I was there was a very soft one uttered by my- 
self deep down under my breath several times when I 
dubbed at golf. The only thing to criticise was that 
the modern dances which are neither graceful nor ex- 
hilarating are permitted, but even the Turkey Trot 
was more subdued than in Texas. Whatever the 
faults of these people — and they had their faults — 
the impression made on my mind was that they are 
making a strong effort to hold on to the decencies of 
old fashioned moralities and culture. ... I will 
tell you more about our trip and the pleasant time we 
had with Charles and his family when I see you. In 
living and doing Charles outshines us all. In nobility 
and patience and charity. His philosophy is to keep 
on working and doing for his brother man with broad 
affection and with all his heart. He thinks his ideas 
are founded on Democracy but this is not Democracy 
— it is Christianity. . . . Affectionately, 


Mr. Dabney's business frequently took him to Bos- 
ton and New York and in New York he had a friend 

Letters 1913-1915 75 

whose companionship he valued highly, George C. 
Fraser, a lawyer of the firm of Martin, Fraser & 
Speir. When in New York he usually spent several 
hours with Mr. Fraser, sometimes their conversation 
lasting far into the night. "Lewis," Mr. Fraser 
writes, "was altogether admirable in the soundness of 
his philosophy of life, his independence and fearless- 
ness, and the logic and depth of his thought. His 
thought was based upon knowledge derived from study 
in many fields tempered by sympathy and understand- 
ing, the product of genial intercourse with others." 

To George C. Fraser, 
20 Exchange Place, 
New York City. 

October 13, 1913. 

My Dear Fraser: I received your letter some days 
ago and have been intending to write every day but 
things have pressed on me so rapidly I seemed never 
to have the time to sit down to a quiet talk. I spent 
five weeks in Canada last summer with my family on 
the Muskoka Lakes and I passed through New York 
on my way up, that is I came in on one train, removed 
the grime of travel, had breakfast, and left on another 
train. I thought of you and Price, of course, but as 
I could only be in town an hour I refrained from the 
strong impulse to call you up. Price has written me 
that he regards his machine x as perfected and I hope 
next season will see us all busy picking cotton. This 
year we have a rather better supply of pickers than 

1 Price-Campbell cotton picker. 

76 A Memoir and Letters 

usual, owing to the state of affairs in Mexico. When- 
ever one brand of patriots gets the best of the other 
in North Mexico, it being understood that the de- 
feated will be executed if caught, the result is a large 
influx of cotton pickers on the north side of the Rio 
Grande. After all, from the standpoint of labor in 
Texas, the Revolution in Mexico has its good points ! 
Why don't you arrange to stray down this way 
about Christmas? We could take a trip out west, 
killing a good many ducks and small game and pos- 
sibly some deer and bear. But are you interested in 
this kind of thing? I used to be very fond of shoot- 
ing and every year I give it out that I am going again 
but usually don't. In fact I am not certain now that 
I can hit a flying haystack but am rather anxious to 


I hope the world is being good to you and that the 
"criminal rich" are flocking to your consultation room 
for advice holding fat retainers in their hands. I con- 
tinue to take up a modest tribute at the old stand, 
gradually raising the percentage. Sincerely Yours, 

Lewis M. Dabney. 

To S. B. Dabney 

December 15, 1913. 

My Dear Brother: I am returning to you your 
article on Father. I can not tell you how much I 
think of it. I would like to have it printed in pamphlet 
form and I must have a copy of it for my boy to read 
and study. . . . 

Yesterday, as you may have noticed, in the Galves- 

Letters 1913-1915 77 

ton News, Sir Charles Davidson, Chief Justice of the 
Supreme Court of Quebec was entertained at luncheon 
here and I had the pleasure of sitting by him and in- 
troducing him. He is a fine old British gentleman 
and gave us an excellent talk about the political and 
legal system in Canada. The old Judge said he had been 
on the bench twenty-five years in which time he had 
never voted not being permitted to. He could, he said, 
vote for Alderman but had not elected to do so as 
his judgment was that the more elections they held 
the worse Aldermen they got. One of the things they 
wondered at in Canada was our perpetual elections 
and he took one or two sly flings at our alleged Democ- 
racy. He expressed the opinon that while Canada had 
not progressed so much in commercial exploitation, 
she had laid her foundations broader, deeper and more 
rationally than we had for the future. 

You * would have been interested in the talk made 
by Mr. Howard Kelly, Vice-President and Manager 
of the Grand Trunk Railroad. He told us of the 
Railway Commission of Canada, a true arbitration 
board which protects the railroads from assaults by 
little jack-leg lawyers and settles ninety-nine per cent 
of the claims to the satisfaction of both parties. . . . 

Mr. Dabney had often said half seriously that he 
was going to edit a periodical for the minority and call 
it the Unpopular Magazine. When the Unpopular 

1 Mr. S. B. Dabney at this time was attorney for the International 
& Great Northern Railroad of which he later became General Counsel. 

/8 A Memoir and Letters 

Review, edited by Henry Holt appeared, he hailed it 
with joy, and he regretted its short existence. 

To S. B. Dabney 

May 7, 19 14. 

Dear Sam : . . . A friend of mine handed me the 
other day something I have been long looking for, a 
high-class periodical devoted to protest and war against 
the modern so-called progressive theories, political, so- 
cial and economic. It is called, of course, "The Unpopu- 
lar Review" and most of the contributors are college 
professors, but they surely go for the ignorant piffling 
asses of their own profession. One of the articles, 
written by a college man, describes the falling stand- 
ards in colleges both among students and professors. 
Speaking of a certain type of addleheaded professor, 
he says: "these men are in no sense scholars, often 
barely escaping illiteracy." 

But the essay which stands out and is in my mind 
phenomenal is called "Natural Aristocracy." It is 
a noble thing, nobly written and in such beautiful Eng- 
lish, instinct with the fire and feeling too, worthy of 
Burke. It is a thing I want to put away for my son. 

The purpose of the publication is to afford a means 
to men of high thought and scholarship to present 
their united protest against the present rotten program. 
To afford a mouthpiece for superior men who are 
denied expression elsewhere and driven from public 
life and positions of authority, while cranks, fanatics, 
ignoramuses and rabbit-headed asses din the ears of 
the world with their nonsense. The author says there 

Letters 1913-1915 79 

are as many men of high ability and scholarship as 
ever there were, but in despair, most of them have 
withdrawn themselves as into an Ivory Tower of 
silence or in contempt of the whole thing have adopted 
a life of scornful preciosity. This is true. All such 
men should draw together and make a common fight 
against current lies. They possess the ability and the 
scholarship and sufficient numbers to make a strong 
front and the time is ripe to keep silent no longer. 

Go at once to a news agency and order the Unpopu- 
lar Review. We should all get behind and help a 
movement like this. . . . 

The next two letters though written in 19 16 are 
given here as they express Mr. Dabney's views on gov- 
ernment and explain his opinions referred to in letters 
of this period. 

His passionate appeal for a return to the Republican 
representative government established by our fore- 
fathers shows his characteristic courage in defense of 
lost causes. The restatement of old and obvious truths 
requires more courage than the statement of new and 
dazzling theories. A rock ribbed conservative, the 
waves of successive "movements" beat in vain against 
his defences. This letter continues a previous dis- 

To Charles W. Dabney 

My Dear Charles : With regard to our late corre- 
spondence about things in general and Democracy in 

80 A Memoir and Letters 

particular, I think we Dabneys — all of us — are too 
dogmatic and positive to be good debaters with each 
other. I don't want to seem to be laying down the 
law to either you or Sam. I have thought of some- 
time setting down briefly and as clearly as I can for 
the benefit of my son my ideas of government and 
of liberty and my reasons for the faith that is in me, 
both historically and from my study of conditions as 
I have observed them since I have been a man. These 
ideas after being revolved in my mind for twenty-five 
years are probably immovable. 

No man who ever lived, I think, could have a more 
passionate attachment to the principles of freedom 
under the law which I inherited and further, delib- 
erately adopted for myself. Only I am convinced 
that the only method of securing any liberty or free- 
dom under the law, to the masses of mankind, is under 
those constitutional safeguards which have come down 
to us as the result of ages upon ages of experience and 
suffering. That the sure way to a loss of liberty, loss 
of freedom, and to tyranny is to follow the theories 
pointed out to us and urged upon us by the present 
prophets of democracy — so-called. 

The truth is that our modern freedom and the in- 
stitutions that safeguard it come down to us as a 
growth and development of English institutions be- 
ginning with the Saxons, from whom we derive trial 
by jury in its original form and the roots of many 
other valuable rights. Free representative parliamen- 
tary institutions grew up in both France and Spain 
upon the decay of the Feudal System but for various 

Letters 1913-1915 81 

reasons in those nations the King prevailed, the States 
General and the Cortes failed, and the government be- 
came autocratic. In England, however, parliamentary 
institutions and representative government grew and 
flourished until they prevailed. At the end of the 
Middle Ages and after the Reformation took place 
Calvinism appeared, not originating free institutions 
but giving them a powerful impulse and impetus. 

The policy of the Calvinistic church indicated and 
furnished a ready made plan for republican representa- 
tive government. Its grand never-to-be-forgotten 
service for freedom is that while it had in it much 
that was false, persecuting and savage, it also had in 
it certain fundamental principles which immensely 
told for freedom. Furthermore, Calvinism stood for 
universal education, not by the state, but by the 
church. Learning, coupled with moral instruction, is 
a sound basis of education everywhere. Admitting 
freely the wickedness and bigotry of our ancestors 
who tried to force their system on others by the torch 
and sword of the persecutor if necessary, yet there is 
immense glory and enough for us all in the fact that 
Calvinism carried in its bosom the real flame of truth. 
Its principles were the election of men by God, the 
responsibility of man to God directly, and the freedom 
of the will. It might be said of Calvin, as of Ridley 
and Latimer by Bishop Fuller, that the fire which 
they lighted could never be put out. 

Against this noble and Christian system, grew up, 
in the eighteenth century, the atheistic system which 
is the father of our modern democracy now in action 

82 A Memoir and Letters 

in these United States. On the one hand was the elec- 
tion of and government by a few able representatives, 
and direct responsibility of man to God. On the other 
hand the French atheists or freethinkers developed 
the idea of the social contract, of absolute equality, of 
the absence of any God, except a vague spirit in the 
universe and they set up a standard of morality and 
virtue instead. Out of this grew pragmatism, uni- 
versal suffrage and all the other rank growths of 

In this government from the start these two princi- 
ples, that imported from England of free representa- 
tive government, and that imported from France by 
Jefferson and Paine of an atheistic democracy, met 
and clashed. On one side men like Washington and 
Patrick Henry on the other Jefferson and Paine. The 
representative system largely prevailed but was some- 
what adulterated. From that time these two princi- 
ples have been face to face and hand gripped. The 
struggle has gone on all the time. Here and there 
the republican form has held its own. In the main, 
however, it has been gradually beaten down and sup- 
planted by the democratic theory. Still in almost 
every commonwealth there are rags and tag ends of 
republicanism existing, surrounded, it might be said, 
by an angry ocean of democracy. In the Federal Gov- 
ernment the representative system was originally re- 
publican and the philosophy on which it was based 
still largely prevails. In some of the states, notably 
Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, California and Ari- 
zona the democratic theory has practically driven out 

Letters 1913-1915 83 

the republican form until hardly a remnant of the lat- 
ter is left. In other states it is merely encroaching, 
but to say that there is no distinction between demo- 
cratic theory and republican theory is to be stone blind 
to a conflict with which the heavens resound and 
under which the earth rocks. To-day the battle be- 
tween these two principles is the noisiest, most vital 
thing going on in the United States. The issue is 
between a representative government, laid out in the 
original constitution of the Federal Union and a demo- 
cratic government embodied in universal suffrage, 
state irreligion, free schools, election of everybody in- 
cluding judges, short terms of office, initiative, ref- 
erendum and recall of judges, attempts to pension 
everybody, to regulate everybody, and by law to 
equalize and force to pay equally everybody regardless 
of capacity or character. 

We see in all the magazines attacks on Washington 
and others who set up in this country the republican 
representative system, as either ignorant reactionaries 
or selfish exploiters; while what is called democracy 
is lauded to the skies. As for me in this irrepressible 
conflict, I am enlisted for life or death on the side of 
the God of my fathers and of the noble principles of the 
English Revolution as laid down in our Bill of Rights 
by these great men to whom I have already referred. 
To them as to our honored father the other thing is 
the device of the Devil operating through corrupt 
human agency to destroy everything that is noble, 
free, and lovely in our government and civilization. 

I had not intended to get into such a long disserta- 

84 A Memoir and Letters 

tion on my views, but it is hard to stop a spring when 
it starts flowing. 

With dearest love to you all. Yours ever, 


So strong was his disapproval of many of the ten- 
dencies of modern civilization and so pronounced his 
opinion of politics and politicians that he was called 
by many a pessimist. It is true that he cherished no 
illusions as to the ultimate destiny of a socialized de- 
mocracy which he denounced in no uncertain terms. 
He maintained that the masses, sometimes exploding 
and overturning, never governed for long, but were 
the tools of the bureaucracy and of the demagogues 
who really governed and constituted themselves a base 

He expresses his views to his brother-in-law and 
warm friend E. Y. Chapin. 

To E. Y. Chapin, Esq., 
President American Trust & Banking Co., 
Chattanooga, Tenn. 

Dear Chapin : How did you get the idea that I favor 
an autocracy as against this debased democracy by 
which we are now disgraced? Autocracy is not the 
only alternative to this rule of Demos. There was 
another form of government which guaranteed funda- 
mental liberties to all men by and under the law, yet 
curbed and limited the frenzies of the mob and re- 
stricted the exercise of power to a limited number of 
fit electors and fit representatives. You can find the 

Letters 1913-1915 85 

original scheme by turning to the Constitution of the 
United States as originally written or the Constitu- 
tion of Virginia prior to 1852. I frankly admit that 
there is now no chance whatever of returning to such 
a system. Those who have been foolishly permitted 
to take the reins of power naturally will not surrender 
them voluntarily. The democratic formulas have 
been repeated and repeated and repeated till, like the 
tapping of a woodpecker, they have hypnotized many 
excellent minds into assent and there is a belief that 
there is a species of treason in re-examining their 

I suppose Milton, who advanced the idea of indi- 
vidual right and freedom during the reign of Charles 
I produced the same kind of indignation in the 
minds of the fine old Tory believers in the Divine 
right of kings and churches. So prevalent is the 
democratic obsession that it is hard to convince any- 
one that a man may not believe in it and yet be a pas- 
sionate, even furious believer, in the right of man to 
the freest pursuit of life and happiness. It is true 
that the word "democracy" is used in the loosest sense. 
Yesterday I saw in the News this sentence : "The re- 
publican Government of France has made a showing 
in this war which will demonstrate to the most doubt- 
ing the inherent strength of democracy." As well say 
the blackness of a crow will certainly demonstrate how 
white it is. France, as you know, has an extremer 
form of representative government on the federal 
model than Alexander Hamilton ever dreamed of or 
dared to advocate. The only election in France is the 

86 A Memoir and Letters 

election of the members of the Chamber of Deputies 
by a somewhat limited body of voters. All the other 
functions of the state are carried on by bodies of 
officials appointed or selected. The law-making power, 
however, is retained to the people by their right to 
elect the members of the Chamber. 

A fair definition of what is meant by democracy 
is, I think, the direct application of the will of the 
people to government wherever possible and where it 
is absolutely impossible then the selection of func- 
tionaries commanded by and supple to, the will of the 
majority. With this of course goes universal suffrage 
regardless of any qualifications to exercise this impor- 
tant function. 

I would define a representative republican govern- 
ment as one in which the ultimate power of law-mak- 
ing is reposed in the hands of a representative body 
of voters (not the whole people but a body of voters 
representative of every class), and in which judging 
and executing the laws and the administration is en- 
trusted to functionaries selected by a body elected by 
the people. These functionaries are not directly re- 
sponsible to the electorate, nor removable at its 

There ought not to be any confusion whatever as to 
the nature of republican government and of a de- 
mocracy. We have the two forms functioning side 
by side. The model of the democratic government is 
more and more being realized in the state govern- 
ments, particularly in the West and above all in sev- 
eral of the Rocky Mountain states. The model of 

Letters 1913-1915 87 

the republican government is found in the Federal 
government, though the old Temple has been much 
denied and defaced, and the constant pressure is to 
destroy the representative republican features and to 
replace them with democratic institutions. This has 
resulted in success in several instances, to wit: the 
direct election of senators for one. We can see the 
operation of these two forms of government side by 
side. On the whole the Federal Government of' the 
United States is powerful and effective. On the whole 
its courts administer justice and make the law feared. 
In the democratic western states the administration 
of justice has already sunk beneath contempt and other 
functions of the state are vilely performed. . . . 

Another thing in which I cannot agree with you is 
that our political system is becoming more efficient. 
I am not a pessimist and I grant with enthusiasm that 
our social, scientific, business and economic organiza- 
tions differ in all respects from our political ones. It 
is the glory of our age, in which I glory with you, 
that all the time we are getting better scientific men, 
better engineers, better bankers, better doctors, bet- 
ter farmers and better everything but politicians. The 
schoolmaster is abroad in every field and slowly we 
are benefiting by it. The people as a whole do select 
in these fields of industry the most competent men, 
the reason being that the people down in their soul 
of souls and heart of hearts, when their own private 
interests are at stake, are rigidly aristocratic. They 
are too prone, if anything, to prostrate themselves be- 
fore ability, to worship success. But when it comes to 

88 A Memoir and Letters 

the body politic the people have been whooped by the 
politicians into a fearful bog of lies and have been 
made to believe those things true which they constantly 
reject as false in their private business. What I have 
always maintained, and do now more than ever main- 
tain, is that people in their private affairs will organize 
themselves into aristocratic forms, meaning the con- 
trol of those who are competent, whereas, our demo- 
cratic form of government by its very nature rejects 
the best and seeks the worst and is stumbling down 
into the mire. But in spite of the politicians, light will 
no doubt prevail. And when you differentiate what 
men are doing in society and what politicians are doing 
in government, I think you will be able to retain all 
your glorious optimism and still be able to see with me 
that politicians and their methods are a blot on the 
landscape and a degradation to an otherwise mag- 
nificently civilized people. 

I suppose you did not expect me to agree with you 
and I trust you will understand that I highly respect 
your viewpoint if unable to concur in it altogether. 
With love to all, Affectionately, 


Business conditions in the early part of 1914 just 
before the World War are discussed in the following 
letter and opinions expressed on the Anti-Trust laws 
of Texas which drove much business out of the state. 
On this subject Mr. Dabney wrote a paper for the 
Critic Club of Dallas in 19 13. The paper which was 

Letters 1913-1915 89 

called "Texas and the Corporations" was unfortunate- 
ly not preserved. 

To George C. Fraser 

March 28, 1914. 

My Dear Fraser: Your several letters were re- 
ceived on my return from South Texas where I have 
been for two weeks on important business. I expected 
to hear that things were pretty dull and pretty blue in 
the North and East. Of course, down here we don't 
hear much of unemployed labor. Anybody can get 
work who is willing and not too dainty. The passage of 
the currency bill seemed to give an impetus to things 
for a while but I have a feeling that business is still 
rather sick. Texas had a bad cotton crop last year 
but owing to the magnificent rains of the fall and win- 
ter the prospects are the best I ever saw, but the big 
boom predicted is certainly delayed and I am inclined 
to think a check up will follow here pretty soon. . . . 

You ask about West Texas. The last five years 
have been very dry and very disastrous and lands there 
have receded in price, but the heavy rains of the fall 
and winter have made the western people more hopeful 
than they have been for years. I do not know that 
values have gone up but the hopeful feeling is strong 
and prospects better than for a very long time. . . . 

My idea about the whole country is that two things 
must happen before we have a general return of pros- 
perity. The people must learn to be less extravagant 
and they must cease to tolerate the actual persecution 
of legitimate invested capital by legislatures, congress, 

90 A Memoir and Letters 

and the courts. I cannot believe that any country can 
prosper under a system of deliberate injustice to any 
important element of the community. We have seen, 
of course, fearful abuses of capital in a few instances 
by those in high circles, but this has been followed 
by a letting loose against investors of every mean feel- 
ing and mean element in the country from Congress 
through the courts and juries to the rabble in the 
streets. It has got to stop or the country is going to 
feel it. 

Speaking of this State at least, there has not been 
a day in the last twenty-five years in which any large 
corporate enterprise had an equal and fair showing 
before the legislature or the courts of Texas. I am 
sorry that this is so but it is so and, much as I love 
this community, I would not stultify myself or mislead 
others by asserting that the thing that is not is the 
thing that is. The revelations of rottenness in high 
finance have merely aggravated the situation bitterly. 
It did not in the least create the mean corrupt political 
and anti-corporation sentiment which was lurking in 
the hearts of many all the time and has borne its fruit 
of injustice and robbery both in the legislative halls 
and in the court house. The worst effect probably has 
not been a mere loss of invested wealth (because wealth 
has many ways to get even) but in the degradation of 
morals and sense of justice of the masses of the people 
who now tolerate and applaud things which their 
fathers would have hated. Rascality being condoned 
in certain matters, speedily becomes a characteristic 
of the whole social and moral system. Scoundrelism 

Letters 1913-1915 91 

and extravagance are the main poisons in the veins of 
the nation. It will not be well until they are eliminated. 
"Righteousness exalteth a nation but sin is a reproach 
to any people." Yours, 

Lewis M. Dabney. 

To Charles W . Dabney 

April 8, 191 4. 

My Dear Charles: Yours enclosing your address 
on Washington and Jefferson as educators was re- 
ceived and read with great appreciation. It is truly 
eloquent and noble in sentiment. I thoroughly approve 
the ideals shared by Washington and Jefferson and 
their hopes for an opportunity for every boy and girl 
to bring out the best that is in them but I doubt that 
either one would have in the least approved the present 

Washington's ideas as expressed are merely general 
statements or truisms which everyone would endorse 
from the Vicar General of the order of Jesuits on 
the one extreme to J. J. Rousseau on the other, namely, 
that everyone should have an opportunity for education 
according to his capacity. Jefferson, however, is more 
explicit and sets forth his proposed system with his 
usual lucidity. His great object, on which he lays 
much emphasis, is to afford an opportunity for every 
one to show himself. Then search this mass as with 
a fine tooth comb for the superior boys and girls, select 
them, send them to high school, sift them out again 
and yet again, till about a dozen are left at the top — 
intellectual leaders of an ideal democracy, in other 

9 2 A Memoir and Letters 

words, little Jeffersons made in his own image. Very 
little is said of the masses who are left behind in the 
process except that they are to be rendered intelligent 
enough to recognize and elect their intellectual, social 
and political leaders, the sucking Jeffersons brought 
forth and panoplied with priggish theory by the patent 
process, — a process as practical as producing sunbeams 
from cucumbers. 

Jefferson was of course thinking with reference to 
the only social and political system he knew, that of 
Virginia. He saw in his mind's eye a small neighbor- 
hood country school run by a board of supervisors of 
his own class, the same class who were elected to the 
legislature by the small body of voters confined to 
gentlemen and f reeholding yeomen. This board under 
close supervision of parents would have selected 
teachers, text-books and courses. It was nothing but 
the Old Field School enlarged and put on a secure 
basis of state taxes. He emphasized parental control 
and made it the sine qua non of success. Is this what 
we have, or have we what Jefferson denounced, the 
converse: namely, a great government machine regu- 
lated by a political ring put in power by a mass vote, 
dictating text-books, fixing courses for all on a rigid 
common basis — part and parcel of the great spoils 
machine, Godless, mechanical, unelastic and loaded 
with politically influenced appointees as teachers? 

Jefferson's mistake was that he had never seen 
democracy in action. As a matter of fact, flesh and 
blood democracies do not choose superior men to gov- 
ern them but instinctively reject them and select the 

Letters 1913-1915 93 

commonplace prophet of the obvious. Jefferson's sys- 
tem was to find and develop the superman, the 
prophet and leader. Ours levels all down to a low 
standard of uniform surface information sterilized of 
individual thinking, molded with the rigidity of cement 
to one form of current lies, half truths and catch words, 
the lower intellects sharpened up to be pernicious fools, 
the higher straight-jacketed down to the one deformed, 
stunted model. Jefferson's theories were based on a 
race of little J. J. Rousseaus and Robespierres, articu- 
lated with wires, stuffed with straw and a bit of cork 
for a heart. What theoretic bosh! 

I hope, my dear brother, that you will not be offended 
at my argument which I present as an answer to your 
address. I have not your lofty feeling or beautiful 
diction, on which I again congratulate you, but, as 
God gives me to see it, this is the truth. With deep 
affection and regard, 


To George C. Fraser 

September 3, 19 14. 

My Dear Fraser : I welcome any kind of letter 
from you — would be glad to get one on the subject of 
applied mechanics than which there is no duller in 
creation. But I was particularly glad to get a hint 
that you might ramble back to Texas this Fall. The 
"front room" is ready and waiting and, though the 
war is on, we have some cabbages in the garden, I 
have laid in a supply of whiskey as a preparation for 
any emergency, and am watering a mint bed every 

94 A Memoir and Letters 

day. So while you may have to put up with war ra- 
tions, I am doing my best to mitigate the horrors of 
the conflict. 

Be sure to come. . . . Yours, 


This next letter shows Mr. Dabney in one of his 
lighter and satirical moods i 

To E. Y. C ha pin 

September, 19 14. 

Dear Chapin : I had hoped I might spend a month 
in Canada this Summer and later join Stella on Signal 
Mountain to recreate myself for a few days by sweet 
communings with you and the Captain. But it cannot 
be. Our friend William Hohenzollern when he went 
crazy and concluded to ruin himself and his own peo- 
ple, threw a monkey wrench into the bearings of this 
law firm as well. Texas is hard hit — cotton is seven 
cents and on the toboggan; but why repine? 

The legislature is in session and the true "progres- 
sives" are in charge. Our worthy Governor * desert- 
ing his old time alliance with booze reaction and boodle, 
now heads the unterrified phalanx of reform, joining 
that other miraculous convert Ham Patterson 2 of 
Tennessee. By the way there is something of the same 
sturdy rock ribbed integrity in our Governor as in 
Ham, some of the same serene selfless incorruptible 

1 Governor James E. Ferguson, who in 1917 was impeached and re- 
moved from office. 

2 Governor Ham Patterson of Tennessee, who turned suddenly from 
support of the liquor interests to active war against them. 

Letters 1913-1915 95 

patriotism, the same lofty idealism. Our Governor has 
submitted to the legislature in special session one of 
the most colossal projects for good, since the demise 
of the late John Law. 1 I say that with all just and due 
respect to William J.'s (Bryan) claims as a financier. 
Much as I admire that great man I am the slave of 
truth. . . . The scheme is this. The Governor pro- 
poses with the aid of all progressive, forward-looking 
men, all uplifters in the legislature, to incorporate the 
Bank of Texas by special act. . . . This bank is to be 
a universal providence and beneficent provider for the 
people of Texas, a species of perennial fountain of 
shin plasters, a shadow of a great rock in a weary 
land, an insurer of 15c cotton, an issuer of money in 
seasonable and refreshing amounts "direck" to the 
laboring masses without the intervention of any "prin- 
cipality or power." Above all it is to destroy the 
"Aristocracy of credit," hateful in a free community, 
and make said credit a truly democratic institution. If 
this is only done and done quickly "the penny loaf 
shall sell three a penny and the two hooped pot (of 
grape juice) shall have four. . . ." The bank will 
have a management of the same caliber and quality 
selected in the same way as the penitentiary board 
which, with free land, free buildings, free teams and 
implements, free labor (convicts) and freedom from 
taxes has lately achieved a deficit for the state of some- 
thing like $300,000. Of course the bank board can't 
do as well as .this but it should — nearly! They say 
the progressive democracy is a unit for it and the gen- 

x Of Mississippi Bubble fame. 

g6 A Memoir and Letters 

eral opposition of the business element in the State 
has much strengthened the bill. Well, what's the use? 
Some people want to hold mass meetings and protest, 
but it will do no good and I don't propose to rasp my- 
self to death worrying. I would as soon jump into a 
raging torrent and try to stop a bursting log jam with 
my bare hands as to try to oppose these progressives. 
However, I decline to give my assent to a debasing 
radicalism. My soul is my own. . . . 

It looks as if the war is on for a year or more. Our 
German friends having retreated till their communica- 
tions are re-established with the breweries stand firm ; 
but as long as there is a Frenchman alive there will 
be a Frenchman fighting for his country. They are a 
gallant race! When this war is over, Chapin, lets 
take out citizenship and go to France to live. Love 
to all, 


Here is another mildly indignant outburst : 

To E. Y. Chapin 

November, 1914. 

Dear Chapin: Yours of the twelfth received. I 
do not think that you should quit the cause of Suffrage 
on such light grounds, or you should, for consistency, 
oppose male suffrage also. My attitude is not one of 
opposition, but that the whole thing is so utterly imma- 
terial that it is not entitled to occupy the time of a 
grown man who has serious work to do. . . . How 
any sane or insane person can at this stage of our 
national development speak seriously of universal suf- 

Letters 1913-1915 97 

f rage either of men or women or both together as a 
cure for anything, passes my comprehension. As long 
as a man can secure a job of digging potatoes or sprin- 
kling the streets or something equally useful, why 
should he concern himself with the frenetic yelping of 
uplifters, reformers and politicians, pre-millennial- 
dawners, holy-rollers, free-lovers or any other element 
of a half-educated neurotic society. There is no form 
of folly whatever which can be labeled with the brand 
of a popular right which will not certainly prevail. Just 
let the demagogues shout that the people are not really 
ruling till they get this supposed right and it will take 
with all the rapidity and beneficence of the itch. We 
have so much politics in the United States now that 
scant opportunity is left for enough productive effort 
to provide a living and lay up enough surplus for the 
politicians to devour. 

In this happy land of Texas the clamor of politics 
and elections and the holding of legislatures and what 
not never ceases. To the increasingly small class en- 
gaged in productive industry, the general sensation is 
of a continuous earthquake underfoot and stars falling 
overhead. We are hardly able to recover from the 
seasickness of one convulsion before another one is set 
up. Taxes steadily grow, wages increase, the cost 
of living goes up and business has fewer opportunities 
to get its breath between cataclysms. Now if the girls 
jump into this seething maelstrom, and add their shrill 
outcries it will* be the finishing touch. When the fairer 
half of creation dive in, the serious question will arise 
whether there will be sufficient time saved out of the 

gS A Memoir and Letters 

scraps of universal uplift to get the meals on the table. 

My position toward it all is to have nothing what- 
ever to do with it. Let the politicians and politician- 
esses raise all the Cain they want to. Some day, when 
their patience is exhausted, the quiet, decent, hard- 
working people of this country will take these incom- 
petents by the neck and, after shaking the wind out of 
them, will set them down to some useful task like 
picking oakum or breaking stone. 

Don't let the row worry you. Just let it go by, keep 
hitting a lick or two every day and remember the in- 
exorable law of Nature? "The strong and competent 
shall inherit the earth." 

My love to all your family. Affectionately, 


His children were growing up and their education 
now became of absorbing interest to Mr. Dabney. 

To George C. Fraser 

March 29, 191 5. 

Dear Fraser: ... I have considered the prepara- 
tory ; schools you mention and am inclined against 
them on account of the harsh New England climate. 
Since our son will probably go to Princeton we are 
now considering Lawrenceville and moreover are in- 
fluenced by the fact that he will be near our daughter 
at Bryn Mawr. . . . 

I agree with you thoroughly about most of the pre- 
paratory schools in this country. I have heard a num- 
ber of them referred to as asylums for the inefficient 

Letters 1913-1915 99 

sons of the idle rich, and I suppose some of them are 
of that character. The best, like Hill and Andover, 
perhaps give too much attention to grinding facts into 
a boy instead of expanding and developing his soul and 
his tastes. You are right as to what education ought 
to be if we are able to give it to our children. If they 
have taste, outlook, and good principles their lives will 
be a benediction and a blessing to them and to others. 
Without this they are brutalized or fossilized machines 
or voluptuaries. . . . 

I am of the opinion that things look a little better 
here financially. Cotton continues to go up — was 8.45 
here yesterday. From what I hear there will be some 
reduction in cotton acreage — I hope as high as 25 per 
cent but I doubt it. The feeling of our people is of 
great anxiety and apprehension as to the future. Those 
who have funds are sitting on them or lending on gilt- 
edged security only. Outside of the war boom in the 
East, is there in fact a fundamental return to sound 
conditions? I doubt it. . . . 

In an extract from a letter to his daughter, aged 
seventeen, then at boarding school, he registers a pro- 
test against ejaculations and superlatives both abhor- 
rent to him. 

April 13, 1915. 

. . . My dear child, your letters lately have been 
more and more ejaculatory and slangy. I notice that 
most educated young ladies these days are slangy and 

ioo A Memoir and Letters 

ejaculatory and I begin to wonder whether the old 
system of keeping a girl at home and setting her down 
in a library of good books, was not better. This new 
system is doubtless all right but doesn't seem to pene- 
trate the cuticle or runs off like water from a duck's 
back. To retort slang for slang, I feel quite "fed up" 
on the word "oodles." 

Adjectives and adverbs, like alcoholic beverages, are 
to be used with discretion and it is only feeble minds 
that effervesce into this kind of froth — including 
superlatives which are worse yet. . . . When you per- 
ceive a silly adjective or adverb sticking his nose into 
your speech or composition, shoot him. Good never 
became better by being called very good, nor bad worse 
by being called perfectly horrid. . . . 

To George C. Fraser 

August 9, 1915. 

Dear Fraser: Yours of the fifth from Santa 
Barbara came duly to hand. I shall in all probability 
be here Sunday the fifteenth and hope you will let me 
know when you will arrive so that I can meet you. I 
am glad to hear you are feeling so well. No doubt 
the trip was the very thing for you. I hope to be able 
also to get off for a vacation in the mountains of Vir- 
ginia the end of this month but I have an important 
corporate organization which may keep me here two 
or three weeks. 

I feel that I would give almost anything for a month 
on some old mountain in some reasonably cool country 
where I could climb up one side one day and the other 

Letters 1913-1915 101 

the next until I get myself in trim. Like the man who 
applied for a pension, "I am too fat to work." Yours, 


In another letter he says: "I fear I am getting 
fatter and fatter. My life is too virtuous. Why do 
piety and flesh so connect themselves? To be slim 
and interesting one must be wicked." 

It was at this time that he began a reducing diet 
of which he spoke once to a friend as a "dull and 
tedious combination of Basy bread, spinach, and milk 
that has been skimmed nine times and then sand- 

To S. B. Dabney 

September 28, 191 5. 

Dear Sam : I am just back from a vacation and busi- 
ness trip and find your letter of September 5th. 

I spent two weeks at the Sweet Chalybeate Springs, 
Va., where my family was and had the finest kind of 
time, walking, playing golf, swimming and sleeping 
ten to twelve hours every night. It is a simple, rather 
primitive place but still frequented by the nicest kind 
of southern people and the mineral water, a combina- 
tion of magnesia, soda and iron, is excellent for the 
digestion. The mint juleps are also of a superior qual- 
ity. I am convinced it was a great benefit to all my 
family, Stella is immensely improved and Elizabeth 
looks like another girl. . . . 

I had to leave on the 14th in the hottest spell of 

102 A Memoir and Letters 

the summer up north — Washington and Philadelphia 
were intolerable — temperature 92, humidity 90. Peo- 
ple dropping dead every which way. It was hotter 
than the Hinges of Hades, in fact so infernal that 
Stella and Elizabeth went to Atlantic City to join 
Charles and his family and even there it was hot. I 
took Lewis to Lawrenceville and went back from New 
York to see him on my way south. The place is 
beautiful and I think we shall be pleased with the 
choice. . . . 

It looks as if the French have "soaked it" to our 
German friends pretty hard and from the efficiency of 
their artillery I imagine they are about to give them 
a dose. 

Evidently the Balkans are going in and I doubt if 
any of the European nations keep out. It will be a 
general conflagration like a house afire. If the Bul- 
gars go in to aid their old-time persecutors, the Turks, 
against their own friends and Allies, I hope the history 
of Bulgaria will be wound up with the words "Bulgaria 
fuit." They have been swelled up ever since the last 
Balkan war and are going to take this way of getting 
the venom out of their system." .... 

Elizabeth will enter Bryn Mawr to-morrow. Should 
you go north this winter, you must be sure to drop by 
and see both my children. . . . With love, 


Leaving the Springs on September 14th Mr. Dabney 
and his family took an automobile trip from Lexington 
to Goshen, Virginia, going by his mother's old home 

Letters 1913-1915 103 

in the Valley of Virginia, the church at New Prov- 
idence where his grandfather was minister and Rock- 
bridge Baths. He wanted to show his children the 
country where so many happy days of his youth were 
spent. He spoke of Commodore Maury's love for this 
spot; of his request that after his death his body be 
brought over the Pass in funeral cortege, hoping that 
it might be in the season when the laurel was in bloom. 
He too deeply loved this country. He had hunted and 
fished all through it and knew every cove, every peak 
and every stream. "Down in my heart," he said, 
"there is a fountain of deep emotion which is pro- 
foundly stirred in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Moun- 
tains. Sometimes I think I should like to lie there at 
the end." 


WORLD WAR 1916-1917 

Mr. Dabney's views on the Mexican question which 
became an important one in 19 13 and continued so 
for a number of years, were entirely opposed to those 
held by the administration. Refusal to recognize 
Huerta, espousing the cause of Villa and Carranza, 
sending Marines to Vera Cruz, withdrawing them, all 
the "shilly-shallying policy" of Bryan's weak State 
Department, disgusted him. 

He had no confidence in any of the Mexican leaders, 
who, he said were all absolutely unstable and "as fertile 
in hatching constitutions as the Abbe Sieves." He 
thought we should either let them alone in their in- 
ternal revolutions or go in with force and restore the 
country to order. Mr. Wilson announced no consistent 
policy but only a vague "purpose to teach the Mexicans 
to elect good men" and when, in 19 16, a plan was 
proposed to go into Mexico to educate the Mexicans 
before their Government was stabilized, Mr. Dabney 
opposed it with vigor. 

To Charles W . Dabney, 

February 8, 191 6. 

My dear Brother: I have carefully read your 

article on Democratic Education for Mexico. I think 


Mexican Crisis and World War 105 

your ideas are good and your plan would be a fine thing 
for Mexico or any other savage country if it could 
be put in operation, but with the enormous amount of 
taxes necessary to put it through I think it theoretical 
and personally I take not the slightest interest in edu- 
cating throat-cutting Mexicans. Nor do I think that 
the United States has any commission from the Al- 
mighty to lavish His loving-kindness upon them. 

We have done them no harm in the last fifty years, 
on the contrary great good, it being American capital 
and American enterprise which has enormously im- 
proved the condition of the poor, and raised the stand- 
ard of wages and living. For this we have received 
and now receive the cordial hate and detestation of the 
Mexican people as a whole. In the matter of murder- 
ing Americans, the active and murderous element has 
behind it the cordial sentiment of the whole na- 
tion. . . . 

I have never found arising in my heart emo- 
tions of loving kindness for the far off, and particu- 
larly the persistently wicked. On the other hand, my 
emotions are provoked by injustice and wrongdoing 
and when this is perpetrated upon my own country- 
men without cause, then instead of provoking in me 
the sentiment and desire to uplift, I sympathize with 
the injured and murdered victims and their widows 
and orphans. 

I cannot understand the theory that seems to possess 
all the American people who do not live near the bor- 
der, viz., that the Mexican people will become event- 
ually sweetly mild and reasonable if we continue to let 

io6 A Memoir and Letters 

them rob Americans and thus follow the practice of 
the Zoo with the boa constrictors; that is, keep on 
feeding them skinned rabbits until their bloodthirsty 
appetite is satiated and they become mild, loving and 
reasonable. I understand that enough raw meat will 
have this effect upon the boa constrictor, tiger or lion, 
and it seems to be our American idea that if we will 
patiently permit the Mexicans to murder and devour 
enough Americans, finally they will love us and become 

This is against all experience in morals. The first 
thing to do with a criminal, a savage, or a bad child is 
to convince him with kindness, and with sufficient force 
if necessary, that murder and such other little playful 
performances will not be permitted. After you have 
the savage or the bad child or the criminal well in 
hand by the use of force then it is not impossible, 
perhaps, to educate him out of his savagery. Force, 
however, is the first and beneficent reply to murder. 

I have often wondered if our philanthropists had 
themselves suffered in their own persons, estates, and 
families, whether they would be so patient with these 
cutthroats. I am far from believing that all the aboli- 
tionists of Birmingham, Exeter Hall, and Boston were 
bad men and hypocrites. On the contrary, I believe 
that a majority of them were, in the human sense, 
good men with good purposes, though of course there 
are always hypocrites in every movement. Yet these 
men permitted and even encouraged murder against 
their white brethren in this country because they were 

Mexican Crisis and World War 107 

slave-owners, and roared about the iniquity of slave- 
owning and the necessity of elevating the black brother, 
who was at least physically comfortable and happy 
while at the same time they oppressed and degraded 
their white brethren at home down to a condition of 
economic servitude, moral, physical, and mental squalor 
which has finally made wild beasts and hooligans of 
them. I do not charge them with hypocrisy but it 
is a thing I cannot understand — why good men are 
so obsessed. Perhaps it is accounted for by the fact 
that foreign adventures in philanthropy and in saving 
and uplifting whole nations of black, yellow or other 
colored skins are more romantic than the hard, dirty 
work of scrubbing and cleaning our poor degraded 
fellowman and brother around the corner. 

At any rate I have no sympathy with the enterprise 
whatsoever, and this kind of thing is usually based 
on injustice and results in evil. I oppose the stand- 
point of those who would rush into Mexico on an 
excursion of benevolence before justice has been done, 
and order established. If we go there, we ought to 
go with the sword in one hand and the free school in 
the other, not otherwise. . . . 

To Charles W. Dabney. 

February 15, 1916. 

My dear Brother: First let me thank you for 
the book you sent me, "Ordeal by Battle." It is won- 
derfully brilliant and most entertaining. I am pleased 
that you are willing to urge the President to action on 

io8 A Memoir and Letters 

account of the outrages 1 perpetrated on our people by 
the Germans! But if it is wrong for the Germans to 
murder our citizens without excuse, it is wrong for 
the Mexicans to do it. If it is right to assume a hostile 
attitude to the Germans, it is right to hold the Mex- 
icans to account. My principle in domestic as well as 
foreign relations is at all times simply this — Justice. 

I fear I have a perverse nature. From my early 
youth, the tears of the widow and children of a mur- 
derer fall upon a heart of stone. All I can see is the 
widow and children of the murdered man. I suppose 
this is because I have a bad disposition as I notice that 
nearly all the good people in the world feel quite other- 
wise. The Scriptures command us to do good to those 
who despitefully use us, yes; but does not the same 
Christ who says "forgive your enemies" say that "res- 
titution must be made and justice done to the uttermost 
farthing"? What do the philanthropists say about 
this? . . . 

... As for my estimate of Mr. Wilson, it is the 
same as ever ... a narrow, cold, self-seeking poli- 
tician, devoid of greatness or breadth. Of course the 
man who succeeds him may be as cold-blooded or 
worse, but my principle is to knock all these politicians 
every time election comes around, so that my action is 
consistent and righteous. 

We had a happy Christmas though the children were 
going all the time, seldom at home. I know you were 
happy with your grandchildren. I would like to meet 

a Our ships torpedoed, our women and children murdered by the 
Germans in 1916. 

Mexican Crisis and World War 109 

you somewhere this winter for a day or two's quiet 
talk. We ought to be together oftener now that the 
train time from Cincinnati to Dallas is only twenty- 
four hours. Affectionately, 


To Charles W. Dabney 

February 25, 1916. 

Dear Charles: Just received your letter telling of 

the sad death of . I am deeply touched 

by the whole thing but particularly by your simple, 
pathetic and eloquent letter. You certainly have a gift 
for such simple, noble poetry and eloquence, my dear 
brother, which I admire profoundly. 

I remember well. We used to skate, hunt 

and swim together. He was a fine boy and, I think, 
the handsomest youth I ever saw. Now and then I 
have thought of him and of other companions of my 
youth as far off and in another incarnation. No one 
knows what is before him, but how sad it is to die 
alone without those kindly tears, which the departing 
soul desires. 

When I go to Washington I want to see the Saint 
Gaudens monument at Rock Creek Cemetery erected 
to Mrs. Henry Adams whose strange history is indeed 
tragic, and when I come to Cincinnati I should like 
to see Mrs. Thomson's 1 for contrast. The idea of the 
latter is beautiful and in exquisite taste. . . . 

1 The Adams monument represents a woman bowed down in despair ; 
the Thomson monument is a figure expressing hope and immortality. 

no A Memoir and Letters 

To E. Y. Chapin 

March 2, 1916. 

Dear Chapin : I certainly did enjoy your last letter 
giving an account of Sam Jones. 1 He has indeed 
reduced banking to its simplest elements; but why 
not ? His system seems to me eminently sound, I have 
seen so much of the evils of waste and extravagance 
that I have a rather warm and affectionate regard for 
one of these thriving usurers. They are better citizens 
than this drove of fools who are putting everything 
on their backs, throwing everything away, and expect- 
ing when the day of trouble comes to borrow from the 
industrious ant. The whole question in this country 
for good citizenship, good government, and everything 
else is thrift — personal, city, county, state, and na- 
tional. But the local peasantry here, particularly the 
women, have no such idea. 

You should see them flaunting in cheap finery, 
swarming the streets in apparel such as never was seen 
out of a nightmare. Are things so in your burg? It 
looks to me as if this country would go to perdition 
from sheer wanton waste and extravagance and at a 
time when other nations are starving. 

I read the papers every day with fear and appre- 
hension that by sheer weight of numbers and metal 
the French have been smashed. Why don't the British 
reinforce them? But I suppose the generals know 
their business. . . . 

. . . Look in the Literary Digest and read about 
the Society for the Support of War Orphans. I am 

1 The professional evangelist. 

Mexican Crisis and World War hi 

taking one orphan boy from the Province my ancestors 
came from — Saintonge. . . . 

In the early part of 191 6 the attitude of keeping 
neutral in "thought, word and deed" became increas- 
ingly difficult for this country. President Wilson and 
Secretary Bryan were still bent on intervening and 
bringing a "peace without victory" to Europe. This 
the Allies indignantly declined and the Germans de- 
sired. Unintentionally this government was playing 
into the hands of the Germans. Pro-German and Pro- 
Irish interests were befuddling the nation as to the 
real issues of the conflict. The letters of our Ambas- 
sador to Great Britain (Walter Page), since published, 
show how confused was American thought and policy 
at this period. But the Germans themselves began to 
point us to the straight and narrow way by the out- 
rages they contemptuously perpetrated on this country. 

From the outbreak of the war with Germany in 
1 9 14 Mr. Dabney threw himself heart and soul into 
the cause of the Allies. He felt after the first year 
of the struggle that we would have to go in and he 
became bitterly impatient of the country's and poli- 
ticians' delays. The following letter was written to 
the Representative from his district more than a year 
before we went into the war. The occasion was the 
McLemore resolution proposing that Americans should 
stay off of foreign ships. Mr. Dabney felt it his duty 
to protest against the attitude of Congress and through 

U2 A Memoir and Letters 

a member of the Cabinet the letter was shown to the 
President who expressed in an acknowledgment his 
gratitude for courageous support on this particular 

To Hon. Jeff McLemore, 
House of Representatives, 
Washington, D. C. 

February 28, 19 16. 

My dear McLemore: It has not been my custom 
to offer advice to my legislative representatives. How- 
ever, at the present juncture, I cannot refrain from 
expressing my feeling as a citizen of this nation whose 
forefathers were ready with life and wealth at every 
crisis. Being an American without a hyphen, there is 
something in my blood that revolts with shame at what 
may be euphemistically described as the case of nerves 
which Congress has undergone in the last few days. 
For one, I am deeply ashamed that such a feeling could 
have prevailed in the bosom of any representative 
American. Are we going to crawl before the whip is 
even lifted over our back? This certainly is a new 
thing in American history. Heretofore, we have 
always taken a firm position as a nation at the very 
outside boundary of our rights, telling the whole world 
that we will spend our last penny and last drop of 
blood before we will surrender one particle of the 
liberties inherited from our free ancestors. 

Now shall we fly the coop at the mere sight of the 
gaff? I sincerely hope that the emotions which have 
prevailed among our representatives in Congress will 

Mexican Crisis and World War 113 

be subdued, and that, right or wrong, we shall do 
nothing in panic fear. A nation cannot surrender to 
an impudent and threatening tyrant one particle of 
its liberties without compromising them all. Our an- 
cestors were willing to go to war and even put their 
necks in the noose provided for traitors, on the ques- 
tion of a trifling tax, but back of this was an essential 

Now let me tell you another thing. Nobody follows 
a man who wants to run. Cowards will run, but each 
scampers in his own direction. No general ever 
gathered an army after a surrender; people always 
rally to the bold and not to the timid man; it is the 
clarion call to battle that brings men, not the call for 

The President's letter to Senator Stone makes all 
true American hearts burn. The stand our Congress- 
men take in their panic haste to surrender our rights 
bows our heads in shame. It is my deliberate opinion 
that many saddles are going to be emptied in Congress. 
In most states the new occupants will be largely Re- 
publicans. From Texas they will be Democrats, but 
other Democrats. I have been so proud of your stand- 
ing up for the President's views on preparedness that 
I am shocked and grieved at the step you now feel 
called upon to take. 

It fills me with shame that at this moment when the 
French by hundreds of thousands are giving their lives 
for their land and liberties, we Americans to whom 
the ark of the covenant of freedom is confided, go on 
sordidly in pursuit of money and pleasure, and shrink 

ii4 A Memoir and Letters 

from facing like men the inevitable. Whether we want 
to or not, we will most likely have to fight for our free 
institutions, and we cannot get out of it by dodging 
and knuckling now. With sincere regards, 

L. M. Dabney. 

To Charles W. Dabney. 

March 4, 1916. 

My dear Brother: The present crisis in Congress 
ought to convince anybody that it is impossible to run 
a great country by a political system of chatter and 
gab. Under the present system no decent man can 
retain his self-respect and run for office. If he goes 
into politics he has to make bunk and wind his career 
and go capering all over the country to uplift conven- 
tions. He has to go into these universal primaries and 
abuse and be abused, lie and be lied about, cajole and 
lick-spittle until he persuades the majority to vote for 
him, because he has lied and cajoled and flattered more 
than the other fellow. 

How can you expect when you have hurled five hun- 
dred or six hundred of these fellows under the dome 
of the capital that they will not function according to 
their species and training ! 

Texas is, of course, full of the finest kind of people 
from every section of the Union but unfortunately they 
do not rule the state nor have much to do with the 
government which is administered by a poor white 
trash majority, through majority primaries which 
elect the lowest of the political scum to rule over us. 
Of all the abominations of modern democracy this 

Mexican Crisis and World War 115 

primary system is the worst. It has simply carried 
things down to the gutter with a rush and now Wood- 
row Wilson is actually going to try to get the President 
nominated by universal primary ! Isn't it the craziest 
idea the mind of man ever conceived? The people of 
this country must wake up and send real men to the 
legislatures and to Congress or we are gone beyond the 
power of help. Who is to lead us in the coming con- 
flict ? Surely not the cowards in Washington who are 
panic-stricken at the thought of a controversy with 
the swaggering German bully. . . . 

By the way, we are going to dine at the Lombardis' 
to-night to meet Wilson's late brother-in-law, Dr. 
Axson, and an Austrian artist who is here painting 
portraits of several prominent men. Stella says that 
conversation will have to steer between Scylla and 
Charybdis, touching neither war nor politics. . . . 

To S. B. Dabney 

April 20, 191 6. 

Dear Sam : Herewith find copy of my letter to 
Commerce and Finance which they published with a 
preface that conditions were the fault of men like me, 

who should run for Congress etc. writes that 

what I say is true but will do no good, is too violent 
though vigorous. Don't these idealists back up and 
off when one hurls a rock at a real, present and pros- 
perous villainy ? They say that if it is attacked at all, 
it must be softly and politely; one must roar gently 
as any dove if at all. I have written Charles and 

n6 A Memoir and Letters 

Price offering to run for Congress if they will! . . . 

Your letter about the war received. The situation 
is not free from dreadful dangers but I am hopeful 
that your position and apprehensions are too extreme 
at this time. If the Allies are whipped, then we are 
in "Hell's Hole/' but that will be some time. Perhaps 
good may even come of it ; that is, war with Germany 
and Mexico may force some permanent military and 
naval preparation. No doubt it will. 

Germany isn't going to war with us if she can help 
it, for while we are militarily contemptible, we can kill 
her with silver bullets. We have inexhaustible money. 
If we get into war with her she will stir up Mexico 
against us. But that may be good too if it forces us 
to prepare. Wilson has shilly-shallied and played poli- 
tics and hesitated as he does in all things but now 
I think he'll stick. We will turn this gang of poli- 
ticians out this fall, but will the next lot be any better ? 
Well, don't worry too much, we can't control the 
future. . . . 

To Commerce and Finance, 
New York City. 

April i, 1916. 

Gentlemen: In a recent issue, you ask in rather 
despairing tones : "Are the United States a Nation?" 
Outrage, insult and murder continue to be inflicted 
on the most powerful people on the planet, and that 
with undisguised circumstances of contempt and ha- 
tred. These injuries seem to arouse in us and in our 
administration only feeble and temporary emotions of 

Mexican Crisis and World War 117 

resentment. The application of the lash to our backs 
is followed by no more than a whimper. 

Can it be that this patient and unresisting folk is 
descended from the men of Yorktown and Gettysburg ? 

Considering from what loins this race is sprung, 
you are not to be blamed for despairing of the Re- 
public, unless beneath the surface there is some reason- 
able explanation of seeming cowardice and apathy. 

Somewhat of our National lethargy is due to our 
hyphenated population; somewhat to the sapping of 
virility by adoration of wealth and comfort; a great 
deal to prejudice long cultivated by demagogues in 
West and South against the so-called predatory rich 
of the East ; somewhat to narrow localism, but none of 
these influences entirely account for the present state 
of mind. 

I think the serious underlying feeling is this: If 
we are to march to Armageddon ; if we are to give our 
blood, our sons, our all for the country, under what 
leadership is it to be? I assure you we Western 
Americans are willing to do as our fathers did; we 
are neither soft nor cowardly, but we are loath to 
embark in so desperate a voyage upon the "Ship of 
Fools," with folly at the helm. Where is the patriotic 
intelligent leadership to which we are entitled if we 
sacrifice all? Are we to entrust our firstborn to a 
pack of chattering-self-seeking politicians at Wash- 
ington ? 

We have not forgotten the Spanish-American dis- 
grace. Are our boys to march again on paper-soled 
shoes, to be poisoned by embalmed beef, to rot with 

u8 A Memoir and Letters 

scurvy and dysentery, while contractors, jobbers and 
politicians wallow in corruption, and grow rich safely 
at home? We remember that though the last war 
consisted only of one naval parade and one skirmish, 
Congress has joyfully looted the treasury of $50,000,- 
000 for pensions for so-called military service in this 
petty brawl, the real purpose being to bribe themselves 
back into their seats. We know well that our children 
and children's children are to be robbed of a billion 
more before our indiscretion of engaging in this trifling 
scuffle is atoned for. 

We see quite clearly that having been looted of five 
billions for pensions for the survivors of a war fifty 
years ended, we are still to be taxed for fifty years 
more for the benefit of these persons, their heirs, and 
political assigns. 

We have seen Congress spend in the last ten years 
more for military and naval account, including pen- 
sions, than has Germany, yet our navy is fourth class 
and our army not ready for a week to take the field 
against a common murderer and his band of horse 
thieves. 1 

Navy yards and army posts are located and main- 
tained at enormous cost, where they will do most 
political service to Congressmen and Senators but none 
at all for the public defense; the biennial burglary, 
known as the Public Buildings and Rivers and Har- 
bors Bills is a vested iniquity. 

Even now, when the deep, stern, patriotic will of the 

1 Francisco Villa who crossed the border and shot up the town of 
Columbus, New Mexico, killing a number of Americans. 

Mexican Crisis and World War 119 

country for preparedness comes to Congress what do 
we get? For bread, a stone, and instead of prompt 
and effective preparation for defense, we are handed 
a rancid and malodorous barrel of pork, the militia 
reserve measure. This is indeed "seething the kid in 
its mother's milk." The patriotic feelings of the coun- 
try are to be taken advantage of, at vast expense in 
taxes, to build for each of our Congressmen in his own 
district a militia aid society, dependent on him for 
appropriations to pay salaries, armories, and other 
graft, but worthless for war. 

Now, if prompted by our natural feeling of resent- 
ment for continued and brutal wrong to our country, 
we go to war, what are we likely to get for our money 
and our blood? Evidently, if we are to judge Con- 
gress by its character and past performance, incom- 
petence, corruption, perhaps final humiliation followed 
hy taxes and pensions forever and a day. 

Germany or Japan, the American people fear not 
at all, but our own self-seeking politicians a great deal. 
Although it is our fault that we have set these men 
over us, they are there and known to be pitifully in- 
competent for any great emergency. Yet, we are not 
altogether to blame, being bound to a wheel, from 
which there is no release without revolution in our 
political system, which inevitably so functions as to 
produce these incompetents and they in turn by cor- 
ruption of the people, by pensions, public buildings 
and other bribes, perpetuate the system. 

Had we not then as well be insulted by foreign Huns 
as by going to war give our own (Huns) the 

120 A Memoir and Letters 

opportunity to enslave us and our descendants by in- 
competence, loot, pensions and taxes? Give us patri- 
otic, unselfish and intelligent leaderships and we are 
ready to spend the last drop of blood and money for 
the maintenance of liberties and rights inherited from 
our free ancestors. Very truly, 

L. M. Dabney. 

Very different in tone are these letters written to 
his daughter at Bryn Mawr College and his son at 
Lawrenceville in 191 6. 

To Elizabeth Dabney. 

March 4, 1916. 

My darling Child: This is your birthday and I 
am sending you a cheque to use in any way you like, 
I have had you in my heart and mind all day. You 
are almost a woman now and we are very proud of our 
daughter. As I grow older and other interests fade, 
my children grow dearer and dearer. 

I am enclosing to-day under separate cover a little 
book which I fear you have been neglecting. Read it 
carefully, reflect on its teachings, follow them. You 
will find it a staff of support, a very present help day 
by day all through the years and the thought that 
while you are far away you are taking its precepts to 
heart and practicing them will be to both your mother 
and myself a blessing and a benediction. I fear this 
Book is now deemed old-fashioned and is no longer 
emphasized in institutions of "Higher Learning. ,, I 
want you to promise me that you will make it a com- 

Mexican Crisis and World War 121 

Don't let the taunts of so-called Liberals shake your 
faith in Calvinism. It was here before its vilifiers and 
will be here when the devil dies. The faith of Calvin 
and of Knox, of Melville and the Lords of the Con- 
gregation, of Conde and Coligny, of William the 
Silent and William of Orange, of Crillon, De la Noue, 
of Agrippe D'Aubigne, of scholars, gentlemen, princes, 
and martyrs is not going to fall under the bootless 
arrows of any number of careless Gallios. The Gates 
of Hell shall not prevail against it. Real religion is 
the only thing solid in these troublous times. Cling 
to it. . . . 

Try, my dearest child, to keep before you duty. Fm 
proud to see you growing sweeter and nobler all the 
time. I'm betting on you and always have, from the 
time I carried you around a little bad midget spread 
out on my shoulder; and your father will always be 
your best friend till you marry some good man from 
your father's home. Don't forget that duty and right- 
eousness are old things, old and everlasting. Don't 
try to be up to date. We are not new people and new 
things are not for us. Stick by the old symbols. "New 
ideas" may go to perdition whence they came for all 
I care. The old truths are from Everlasting to Ever- 
lasting. God bless you and keep you. 

Your devoted Father. 

To Elizabeth Dabney. 

October, 191 6. 

My dearest Daughter: The fair is in full blast 
and there is a big attendance. The farmers are all 

122 A Memoir and Letters 

plutocrats, cotton at 18 cents. Some of the best old 
prohibition deacons are quite demoralized after cash- 
ing in, and are wagging their goat whiskers to the 
rhythm of "This is the Life." Somehow prosperity 
always has been inimical to the practice of fervent 
piety ! I think, however, that my Christian character 
would stand quite a strain along that line. As yet none 
of this "easy money" has staggered up to me in a 
helpless and intoxicated condition. . . . 

Has Lewis been to see you? He seems busy about 
something. Hope it's studying but will lay odds it's 

When in Houston last week I came across some 
interesting family papers in your Uncle Sam's office — 
one a pedigree down to 1806 made out by John Ran- 
dolph of Roanoke, also letters to your grandfather 
from John Randolph, from General Lee and from 
General Jackson. I want to photograph and frame 
these letters. From the pedigree and one made out 
by Beverly Dabney Harris, I see you are the seventh 
Elizabeth from Elizabeth Peyton who brought the 
name into our family. Here is your line: Elizabeth 
Peyton — Elizabeth Beverly — Elizabeth Randolph — 
Elizabeth Price — Elizabeth Price Dabney — Elizabeth 
Dabney 2nd — and you, Elizabeth Dabney 3rd and 
seventh of the name in my family, not to mention the 
Elizabeths on your mother's side. Be a good child and 
do credit to the ancestresses roosting in your family 
tree or they will step down and haunt you. 

Take care of yourself, my dearest child, 

Your devoted Father. 

Mexican Crisis and World War 123 

To Lewis M. Dabney, Jr. 

June 16, 19 1 6. 

My dear Son: Your mother and sister and I were 
made very happy by your letter this morning saying 
that you were head boy in the Fourth Form. This is 
all the more agreeable in that it was not expected. Not 
that we thought you were not capable of it, because we 
knew you have the machinery under your hat, but from 
reports of the life of ease you are leading, according 
to your teachers, we had not anticipated your making 
a showing of this kind. I assure you with all sincerity 
that I feel highly honored in being connected with you. 
As we telegraphed you this morning, the fatted calf 
has been placed on ice and you will be met with a brass 
band or at least its equivalent in enthusiasm. But 
while all this is extremely delightful and fills me with 
pride, like every other situation in life it calls for the 
appropriate reflections. 

Life is very much like walking a tight rope, in that 
we are liable to get a little dizzy when we are getting 
along too well, and furthermore, it takes all and every- 
one of our faculties of mind and body on the job to 
get across without falling off and getting a hard bump. 
Intellect, and intellectual capacity, is a very fine thing, 
perhaps the finest thing a man can be equipped with, 
barring high honor and character, but by itself it is 
worse than useless. The most accomplished scholar 
I ever knew, and in every way a good man, the last 
time I heard of him was teaching in the backwoods of 
Virginia at the age of sixty. He had a princely intel- 
lect but with it was eccentric and a crank. No one ever 

124 A Memoir and Letters 

got by on one faculty or made a success with one 
quality. Many a boy is a great athlete, has well-devel- 
oped muscles but no brains at all; in other words a 
mere lump. And when it comes to the real business 
of life, all his fine equipment of muscles will do for 
him is to furnish him with a good appetite and a 
comfortable performance of his bodily functions. 

Again, one may have a fine tenor voice, and never 
be anything but a warbler, or elegant manners and 
never be more than a thoroughly competent ribbon 
counter clerk. The big men, however, the men who 
absolutely rule the world, are those who have intellect 
and, combined with it, well-balanced faculties of mind 
and body. Don't under-rate your intellectual success, 
but don't over-rate it either. Remember that many 
another fellow who is not quite so good in books, far 
excels in physical prowess, in all-around good fellow- 
ship, in common sense, perhaps in well-balanced dis- 
position. So, to sum up, "don't let the old bean get 
swelled, keep your feet on the rope and don't drop 
your balancing pole." 

When you get back we will try to get two or three 
days down on the lake, fishing, if you feel inclined to 
go. Report is that the fish are biting all right. With 
devoted affection, 

Your Father. 

An extract from another letter written not long 
afterward continues this philosophizing on life : 

... A man, my son, has to be very much alive in 
this world, or the world walks over him and doesn't 

Mexican Crisis and World War 125 

hesitate to trample on his diaphragm and kick out a 
few teeth as it walks. I was a dreamer once, but I 
found that a dreamer has to wake up and be alert or be 
battered and knocked about in life, kicked around and 
bruised, flip-flapped and shoved out of the way and 
left behind in the procession. You have to get into 
the game and fight with your own hand and head. I 
have had to fight hard and so will you. But a man 
must fight always with consideration for others' rights. 
Self-advertising is a vice of the mediocre, as I have 
observed, and is frequently a boomerang. I have seen 
a man in his egotism grab the spotlight, not remem- 
bering that there are others, many, many others who 
think themselves entitled to a modest portion of its 
exhilarating beams. In pushing and self -exploitation 
a man treads on many toes and the owners thereof are 
waiting patiently with an axe for the moment of the 
"grande revanche." So though we can't glide through 
life in a dream but must get into the current, we must 
fight fair. When the day's work is over we can "loaf 
and invite our souls." . . . 

To E. Y. Chupin. 

July 11, 1916. 

Dear Chapin : Your letter received containing your 
interesting analysis of "The Cult of Incompetence" 
by fimile Faguet. I think you fall into a common 
error in reproaching the author for pointing out evils 
without indicating a remedy. This is the answer 
made to every kind of critical work and scientific ex- 

126 A Memoir and Letters 

periment. You hear it all the time and, if you will 
pardon me, it is but a surface answer. 

To begin with, the author frankly undertook nothing 
but a critical work. He did not, perhaps could not, 
in so short an essay do more than dissect. To say that 
the critic of government must, while dissecting it, at 
the same time offer a reliable cure of the morbid con- 
ditions he finds, is not an answer. As I see it the work 
purports to be nothing but a criticism. The first scien- 
tists who dissected dead bodies were thundered at with 
the same reproach. Notwithstanding, it is this scien- 
tific analysis which is the foundation of all progress 
in the surgeon's art. Further, it is everywhere 
acknowledged that diagnosis is the most valuable part 
of medical practice. The diagnosticians, who only 
make a rigid examination to find out where the trouble 
is, are the elite of the medical profession and get much 
higher fees than the country doctor who gives a dose 
of calomel with serene confidence that his remedy will 
get results. 

In other words, critical and analytical work is at 
the bottom of all advance and has always been repre- 
hended on the ground that these experimenters dictate 
no remedy but merely point out evils and troubles we 
had better not know of. The scientific man displays 
conditions, then advances cautiously and humbly to the 
proposal of a cure. The quack is ready with a patent 
pill. So our politicians — they are always ready with 
an infallible remedy the principle feature of which is 
the election of themselves to office. . . . 

Stella and I have concluded to purchase a Ford 

Mexican Crisis and World War 127 

to use on Signal Mountain this summer. Stella wants 
to know whether a Ford can negotiate the road up 
with a reasonable load. My recollection is that they 
flit up and down like jack-rabbits. . . . Love to all, 


The following expresses his hopes and fears for the 
election of 19 16. 

To E. Y. Chapin. 

November 3, 1916. 

Dear Chapin : It looks something like Mr. Wilson 
— but like Sir Andrew Aguecheek, "My hope is bet- 


A hope doomed to disappointment. 

To George C. Fraser. 

February 26, 19 17. 

My dear Fraser: I have been intending to write 
to you for some time but two Legislatures on my 
hands, one in Oklahoma and one in Texas, with several 
insurance departments also rampant have given me 
enough to do to keep me from taking up my personal 

I am much interested in the clipping you sent me 
concerning the lack of appetite of the investing public 
for stock in the Farm Loan Bank. My only explana- 
tion is that those who intended to invest made some 
study of the act and its machinery, hence their failure 

128 A Memoir and Letters 

in anxiety to get the stock. As far as I have gone 
into it the whole apparatus is devised to give political 
jobs in the management and to furnish the boys at the 
forks of the creek with plenty of money on easy terms. 

The Federal Act is having some effect upon the 
mortgage loan business in that a certain number of 
people are holding off with a view to taking advantage 
of its terms if they can. I think, however, in the long 
run the Act will have almost no effect upon general 
business. It is the opinion of mortgage loan men 
here that the Texas Land Bank will operate largely 
in areas not occupied by the regular mortgage loan 
agencies and in which they would be unwilling to lend 
at present. In these areas the U. S. Bank ought to 
do great good, that is in disseminating a little cash, 
which is badly needed. One thing the Government 
has wisely avoided : In a democracy there would be a 
reflection on the intelligence of the People to require 
special knowledge for a particular job; therefore, 
naturally and properly, not one single soul has any- 
where been appointed to any office in the Federal Land 
Bank system who had ever had any general experience 
in the making of investments upon mortgage loans. 

However, this is perfectly logical and proper be- 
cause to promote men on account of special knowledge 
or expertness in any particular thing is to create an 
aristocracy and to set men over other men on account 
of mere ability. Is this not the negation of democ- 
racy, and is it not proper for democracy to decline any 
ability in public office of any kind? For the election 
or appointment of the best to fill any executive or 

Mexican Crisis and World War 129 

ruling position is nothing but the appointment of an 
Aristos and isn't that aristocracy? Therefore isn't 
the democracy right and isn't it exercising sound in- 
stinct against its own destruction when it steadily re- 
fuses to permit anyone to hold office who has special 
ability? I have never been irritated by this tendency 
of democracy as some are, but consider it, from its 
standpoint, not only logical but right. In fact democ- 
racy would at once destroy itself if it permitted any 
ability whatever to protrude itself in public office. I 
suppose you people in the East are more or less excited 
about foreign relations. It seems very likely we will 
soon be pulled into the scrap. 

With best wishes for yourself and family. Faith- 

L. M. Dabney. 

As the practice of law like every profession has be- 
come more and more specialized, Mr. Dabney, though 
learned in all its branches, interested himself chiefly 
in subjects dealing with finance and administration. 
He excelled in organization of corporations, in draw- 
ing up charters and statutes, and in the law of real 
property and liens thereon. Having a keen construc- 
tive imagination the organization and development of 
corporations became a specialty. His work was crea- 
tive and original and more than one business enter- 
prise with which he was connected owed its success 
to his executive ability. To this the Realty Trust Co. 
of Dallas and the Texas Bitulithic Co., and subsidiaries 

130 A Memoir and Letters 

especially bear witness. Of the first he was founder 
and president and of the second vice president and 
general counsel. 

In 1 9 16 the firm of Dabney & Townsend was dis- 
solved with mutual regret for the reason given in the 
following letter to S. B. Dabney : 

. . . Townsend and I will dissolve on February 1st 
with great regret and perfect friendship, after thirteen 
years of association without ripple, strain or shadow in 
our intercourse. He was offered a good retainer which 
was inconsistent with one of my best (retainers) and 
could not be handled in our firm ; so I agreed with him 
that he should strike out for himself. He is right in 
working out his own destiny though both of us feel 
the necessity deeply. 

The firm now became Dabney & Goggans and in 
1 91 8 was changed to Dabney, Goggans & Ritchie on 
the entrance of Mr. R. A. Ritchie, and so continued till 
Mr. Dabney 's death in 1923. With his business asso- 
ciates he always enjoyed the most affectionate relations, 
especially in later years, with the young men who re- 
mained in his firm or who went out to form other 
associations. They retained the inspiration of his 
powerful intellect and his iron integrity, and loved him 
for his big heart and generous nature. 

Big in mind, heart and body, little and mean things 
shrivelled before him. Sometimes in a cynical mood 
he would say, quoting Balzac : "The doctor, the law- 
yer, and the priest do well to go clothed in black for 

Mexican Crisis and World War 131 

they are in mourning for all the virtues and all the 
illusions." But he believed that the confessional which 
betrays the weakness of human nature shows also its 
strength and the doctor, the lawyer, and the priest bear 
witness to both. 

H. G. Goggans, one of his partners, makes these 
comments on his professional activities : 

"Mr. Dabney's outstanding specialty as a lawyer was 
the subject of Powers of Municipal Corporations and 
particularly as a branch of that, the Powers of Mu- 
nicipal Corporations in Texas to levy special assess- 
ment taxes for street and other public improvements. 
He became interested in that subject at a time when, 
under the decisions of the Supreme Court of this state, 
it seemed almost impossible to work out any law au- 
thorizing special assessments which would be practical 
in application and at the same time meet constitutional 
objections. Mr. Dabney worked out many statutes 
and city charters which met all legal objections and 
which have been upheld by the courts. Practically all 
the street improvements constructed in Texas since 
1909 were made possible by his efforts. Though he 
wrote the provisions in many city charters on that sub- 
ject, the particular statute written by him and by 
virtue of which most of such improvements have been 
constructed, came to be known as the General Paving 
Law of Texas. 

"It was passed by the thirty-first Legislature of 
Texas in 1909, and was adopted in accordance with its 
provisions by many cities and towns. His theories on 

132 A Memoir and Letters 

municipal improvements, though novel at the time, 
have since been upheld by the courts. 

"The last law written by Mr. Dabney is one which, 
I think, in the future will prove to be of very great 
importance and was prepared at the suggestion of 
numerous cities. It was presented to the thirty-eighth 
legislature (1923) and passed at the regular session. 
It relates to street opening and widening and con- 
demnation of land therefor, and assessments of the 
cost against benefited property in the vicinity, and 
for the issuance and sale of certificates in evidence of 
the assessments levied. This law has not yet been 
construed by the courts, as it has been in effect only 
since July 12th of this year. 

"Mr. Dabney's next specialty related to the laws 
of real property and liens thereon, and particularly to 
the peculiar laws of Texas concerning homestead ex- 
emption. He was much interested in the matter of 
homestead exemptions not only from a legal standpoint 
but from an economic standpoint as well, as is evi- 
denced by the paper written by him entitled "The 
Homestead Law Considered from an Economic 
Standpoint," which was delivered before the Dallas 
Bar Association and later published by that Associa- 
tion in pamphlet form." 

He was one of the first to advocate the modification 
of the Homestead Law and after twenty years of 
speaking and writing to that end, he lived to see his 
ideas endorsed by leading men all d ver the state. The 

Mexican Crisis and World War 133 

following letters to Charles Dabney and to George 
C. Fraser tell of his position on the subject. 

December 5, 191 7. 

My dear Brother : Herewith find copy of one of 
my addresses which has been published also in one 
form or another in several of our daily papers in the 
state, and has aroused some comment. The proposed 
reforms do not go as far as I would like, but as far 
as there is any possibility under present circumstances. 
Democracy is sodden with ignorance and prejudice and 
though the proposition may be as plain as two and 
two make four, it takes about a hundred years to make 
any headway with it. Hitherto the discussion of this 
question has aroused only anger and resentment in 
Texas, but there now seems to be at least some chance 
to talk it over. 

The Homestead Law has done the state great harm, 
and in my judgment is eventually working, strange as 
it may seem and paradoxical as it may appear, to 
reduce if not exterminate the home-owning element in 
both country and city. There is a marked tendency 
that way in Texas at any rate, very different from the 
other prairie states. If it is not the Homestead Law 
that is doing the work I don't know what it is. Affec- 


December 5, 191 7. 

Dear Fraser : . . . The Homestead Law of Texas 
is a local idol and there is not the slightest chance 

134 A Memoir and Letters 

of repealing it at present. But there seems now 
to be a slight chance of modifying it, particularly since 
the advent of the Federal Loan Bank which has il- 
lustrated to some extent to farmers the unwisdom of 
this constitutional provision. The modifications sug- 
gested in the paper herewith enclosed are the limits 
of what we might possibly accomplish but I should like 
to go very much further. I believe that the total re- 
peal of this constitutional provision would be in every 
way advantageous to the state, except in so far as there 
should be exempted from execution a reasonable home- 
stead for the head of the family. But popular preju- 
dice, deep seated and long standing, renders it out of 
the question to attempt such a repeal. 

For the first time since I have lived in Texas, — over 
thirty years, — the matter has come up for discussion 
and re-examination. The press of Texas has com- 
mented favorably on my paper and it has been prac- 
tically adopted by the manager of the Farm Loan 
Bank for Texas, in work among the farmers. After 
a while reason will prevail. Yours, 


This address, which will be found in full in the 
appendix, suggests an amendment to the constitution 
of Texas with regard to the Homestead Law and con- 
cludes with the following paragraph: 

This amendment still forbids the borrowing of money 
on the home for general purposes but frees the homestead 
as a basis of credit for necessary improvements, — for fer- 
tilizers to enrich it, seed to plant it, for tools and imple- 

Mexican Crisis and World War 135 

ments without which it would be useless, and necessaries 
for the family in case of that dire necessity which might 
otherwise force a sale. The owner is still well protected 
against his improvidence and speculative tendencies and 
he cannot borrow even for the purposes permitted, without 
the consent of his wife, and only to secure articles or sup- 
plies designated and specified in advance. 

Would not such an amendment furnish to the home- 
owner all the protection desired without the cramping and 
destructive results of the law as it now is? The subject is 
one of basic economic, political, and humanitarian impor- 
tance. Its reopening for discussion will be beneficial if 
the debate is conducted in a spirit of fair inquiry without 
violent prejudice and blind aversion to facts. 


THE WAR PERIOD 1917-1918 

For more than a year Mr. Dabney had felt that 
America's entrance into the World War was inevitable 
and his sympathies, heartily enlisted in the cause of all 
the Allies, were especially keen for France. Upon our 
declaration of war in April, 19 17, the French and 
English sent commissions to this country to arrange 
details for our effective participation. Balfour, JofTre 
and Viviani, the heads of the commissions, were re- 
ceived with enthusiasm by the American people. In 
a letter to his son Mr. Dabney refers to the visit paid 
by the Commissioners to the tomb of George Wash- 

To Lewis M. Dabney, Jr., 
Lawrenceville, New Jersey. 

April 30, 1 91 7. 

My Dear Son: I am enclosing you herewith a 
clipping containing the speech of Viviani at the tomb 
of George Washington. This, to me, is one of the 
most impressive and solemn ceremonies in the whole 
history of the world. The representatives of France, 
the most enlightened, civilized, and patriotic nation on 
earth, meeting before the tomb of George Washington 


The War Period 137 

on the soil of our old commonwealth of Virginia to 
dedicate themselves with the English and Americans 
to the cause of freedom. I want you to put away 
Viviani's speech for I think it is one of the most lofty 
and beautiful examples of oratory which I have ever 
read. I have marked the passage which I think incom- 
parable, both in thought and beauty of diction. What 
noble thought this is and how uplifting! 

I consider that you and I are deeply honored in that 
a kinsman of our own, Governor Stuart, took part 
in this ceremony as a representative of the unterrified 
commonwealth from which we draw our blood and of 
which we should be so deeply proud. There is none 
like her in the union of states, and I sometimes wish 
that you could go back there to cast in your lot and 
lead your life. 

I hope you are well. Be sure to let us hear from 
you often. If you can't outpour yourself to Mother, 
write to me, and don't be so diplomatic in your letters 
that I don't know what you are doing. You are not 
in training for diplomacy as yet. Your affectionate 


The passage especially referred to is in the conclu- 
sion of Viviani's speech and is as follows : 

I have come before this tomb to bow in earnest medita- 
tion and all the fervor of piety before the soldiers of the 
Allied Nations who for nearly three years have been fight- 
ing under different flags for the same ideals. I beg you 
to address the homage of your hearts and souls to all the 
heroes born to live in happiness, who went into battle with 

138 A Memoir and Letters 

virile cheerfulness and gave themselves up not to death 
alone, but to the eternal silence that closes over those whose 
sacrifice remains unnamed, in the full knowledge that, save 
for those who loved them, their names would disappear 
with their bodies. 

In the spring of 19 17 Mr. Dabney's health was 
seriously threatened and on the suggestion of Dr. 
Charles Dabney he went to Cincinnati for a thorough 
medical examination. The diagnosis was that a condi- 
tion of hardening of the arteries existed but the doctors 
thought that with care he should live many years. 

This letter was written on his return. 

To Charles IV. Dabney. 

April 21, 1917. 

Dear Charles : Of course I am gratified at what 
the doctors say about me and I hope they are right. I 
certainly intend to try to take the best care of myself 
and reduce my weight but that is a slow business. 
Still, I'm going to try, beginning right now. We en- 
joyed our visit to Cincinnati immensely, I cannot say 
how much. . . . 

As for Lewis' going into an army camp now, it is, 
I agree with you, out of the question. He is just 
eighteen, not well developed for his age and will get 
at Princeton all the military training he needs. I un- 
derstand from Palmer Hutcheson that Princeton has 
almost turned into a West Point and everybody is 
taking military training. He can start his training 
there and later take a course to prepare him to be an 

The War Period 139 

officer in the reserve army which we are going to have. 
In the meantime he will go to camp at Culver this 
summer to get the benefit of outdoor exercise. . . . 

To S. B. Dabney. 

May 2, 1917. 

. . . I'm glad you liked Viviani's speech. It is, I 
think, one of the notable orations of the world. . . . 

I agree with you that we are in for a long hard war. 
The Germans are not breaking. They are suffering, 
but their past history and even our own in the South 
show that people will suffer agony and torment for 
years before they will give up fighting. . . . 

The Allies cannot make peace without indemnity 
for Belgium and without returning Alsace and Lor- 
raine to France. That would be criminal after the 
French Nation has bled itself white in defense of 
another Thermopylae against another horde of bar- 
barians. They have fought for the whole civilized 
world and it would be a betrayal worse than Judas 
if they do not at least receive their lost provinces. So 
I think there cannot be any settlement at present. The 
Germans will fight till they are desperate and that will 
be some time. Of course the submarine issue is very 
grave but it will be met. 

.... As to putting Robert into the army I have 
no sympathy whatever with the idea. I believe we 
ought to do what the best judges say — send the boys 
to school, prepare them for life, then when the military 
age is reached, if they must go let them go but don't 
wrench their lives aside until the time comes. There 

140 A Memoir and Letters 

is no sense in it and there is no requirement made of 
the service of boys of eighteen years old and I am 
acting on this theory with my boy — preparing him for 
service later on. . . . 

To S. B. Dabney. 
. May 9, 19 1 7. 

. . . There is much in what you say of Russia ; but it 
is not astonishing that these poor Russians are fools 
drunk on the strong wine of liberty. It is only 
astounding that they have done no worse. I take no 
stock in the prevailing rot about Democracy at grips 
with Autocracy. The German nation would act just 
as it does now if it were a democracy. The Hohen- 
zollern dynasty has not made the Germans what they 
are. On the contrary, the Hohenzollerns are the 
flower of a German ideal planted, nourished, cultivated 
for centuries and now in full bloom. Nothing but 
smashing, utter, ruinous defeat will get the Boche idea 
out of their pig heads. And that idea is that they have 
a commission from God to spread their rule and Kultur 
over their neighbors or destroy them if they resist. 
Spiritually they are wild beasts who would trample 
down, root up, and degrade the beauty, fairness, and 
sweet liberty of life and smash ancient art they are 
incapable of replacing. For the beauty and joy of 
living, for the things of the soul and heart and spirit, 
for the living light, they offer in exchange brute me- 
chanical efficiency, scientific industrialism, a savage 
and childish art, a degraded stage, an arid literature 
and music dragged from its former high estate to 

The War Period 141 

Chinese dissonance. Every free man will fight against 
living in a dull mechanical Prussian Hell. They must 
be conquered and will be. 

Therefore France is covering herself with glory un- 
equaled hitherto, — her sons and daughters giving 
themselves to death with joy, that her ancient light 
may not be quenched, that her ancient art and glorious 
traditions may not perish, that men's souls may be 
free, that her children may inherit the sacred soil free 
from wild beast menace, and that the beauty of the 
Lilies may not be trampled into the mud. For such a 
cause it is a joyous and a beautiful thing to die! . . . 

To Lewis M. Dabney, Jr. 

May 24, 191 7. 

My Dear Son : I have just received your letter 
telling of your trip to Hill School and your victory, 
on which I congratulate the school. I am glad you 
went. Was afraid you had so many blacks you would 
be kept inside the stockade like the other convicts. 

I am interested in knowing that you have one of 
General Lee's grandsons at the school. If he is like 
the Lees I knew in Virginia, and particularly my dear 
friend Charles Lightfoot Lee with whom I went to 
school from 1879- 1883, ne wl ^ De a simple, unassum- 
ing, manly, upright Virginia gentleman. I suppose this 
boy is the son of Captain Robert E. Lee Jr., whom I 
knew slightly when I was a youngster growing up. 
Remember that the Lees have always been at the head 
of our Virginia aristocracy. But no Virginia gentle- 
man was ever a snob or, if he is, it is proof positive 

142 A Memoir and Letters 

that he doesn't spring from the right stock. Knowl- 
edge of character and good descent makes a man sim- 
ple and unassuming. 

Your grandfather knew General Lee well in the 
war and after it and had the honor of calling him his 
friend. I intend to get you several lives of General 
Lee because he was the greatest Anglo-Saxon gentle- 
man of the nineteenth century and every boy should 
know his life intimately. There could be no finer, 
nobler, simpler model. 

I will send you, as soon as I can look it up, a sonnet 
your grandfather wrote on Washington and Lee which 
is beautiful. . . . 

. . . Sometimes I feel very worn out and am look- 
ing forward to the month on Signal Mountain when 
we will all be together. We will have some good golf 
and must plan another trip in the Ford. Devotedly, 

Your Father. 

His summer vacations spent on Signal Mountain, 
Tennessee, where he had a summer home were a great 
pleasure to him. With golf, an orchard, a mint-bed 
and a Ford in which to scour the country, he was quite 
happy, and his vacations were all too short. 

The reference here is to a trip taken through 
Georgia in a Ford, in 191 6 with Mr. Chapin and his 
son Edward. The two boys drove and the average 
speed was around 40 miles an hour. He regarded 
this as an immense joke and referred to the trip as 
"leaping through Georgia.' ' 

The War Period 143 

The next two letters to S. B. Dabney were prompted 
by the outbreak of Governor Ferguson of Texas 
against the University, in which he declared that the 
people of Texas had "gone hog-wild over education" 
and he proposed to cure the malady by putting the 
University entirely under political control. 

June 14, 19 1 7. 

My dear Brother: I have not heard from you for 
some time and am quite anxious to know how you are 
getting on in general. I feel very much depressed at 
times about the war and about the future. 

Isn't the Governor "going some" in the University 
matter? But in a way Ferguson is absolutely logical. 
If the courts are run politically, according to the tenets 
of democracy, and the insane asylums, and the deaf 
and dumb asylums, and all the state institutions in- 
cluding the orphan asylums, why should not the Uni- 
versity be run politically? Why should not the pro- 
fessors be elected after being nominated at the 
primary? If the people can elect judges, why not 
professors? If the system is good at all it ought to 
be good all the way through. The answer is, of course, 
that the whole system is rotten and ought to be 
changed but if the people of Texas are not going to 
do that why shouldn't the hide go with the hair. . . . 

I was in Austin the other day and was told that there 
are over two hundred professors and instructors at 
the University and among the Chairs filled, and over- 
flowing, are Chairs of Music, Hebrew, Arabic, Do- 

144 A Memoir and Letters 

mestic Economy, Government Research and so on and 
so on. Of course it is absurd to pay out thousands 
and thousands of dollars of the tax-payers' money to 
pretend to teach this rubbish. A university supported 
by the State and giving- free education should obviously 
confine itself to the fundamentals of a good sound 
general education. It is perfect rot for a state uni- 
versity to teach girls to cook, a thing they should learn 
from their mothers before they leave home, and it is 
pluperfect rot to conduct a department of Arabic, So- 
ciology, the Science of Teaching, if there be such a 
thing, etc. Learning to play the piano also should 
not be a free gift from a poor state. Thorough teach- 
ing of Greek, Latin, Mathematics, Modern Languages, 
Physical Sciences, Engineering, Literature, History, 
Mental Science and Political Economy to my mind 
soundly and thoroughly covers the ground upon which 
the state can afford to give free instruction out of taxes 
collected from women and children who pick cotton. 
Certainly those who desire to go into curious specialties 
and frills can afford to pay their own way. The state 
should not maintain free schools of Law and Medicine 
either, but should charge fees fully sufficient to cover 
the salaries of the teaching force. Furnishing plant 
and material is quite enough. Law and Medicine are 
means of getting a living. Why should I be furnished 
free with either art when a man who expects to make 
a living by blacksmithing or laying bricks must acquire 
these arts at his own expense and by his own toil ? It 
is time for some man of sound sense to bring these 

The War Period 145 

things to the attention of the people, and bring the 
University back to what it was intended for. 

In my judgment, there is very little future for any 
state university. Being members of the body politic, 
they cannot possibly keep out of politics. Therefore 
they must be politically directed. If they are politically 
directed, they are bound to be politically managed, and 
if politically managed they are bound to be misman- 
aged and to teach the views that the majority happen 
to have at the particular time. As these views change 
bi-annually the professorial force would have to be as 
agile as fleas in order to adapt their so-called sciences 
to the popular whim. 

I hope you will be along pretty soon as I feel like 
having a good old-fashioned talk with you, in which 
time will be allotted to each vocal gymnast. Yours 


To S. B. Dabney. 

June 28, 191 7. 

My dear Brother: You seemed to take my pro- 
posals for the University too seriously. You know 
how to discount my cynical remarks. While the elec- 
tion system applied to professors is logical in a democ- 
racy and in line with the rest of the universal boiling 
rot, seriously, of course, it is not good and I would not 
want it applied. I agree with you that the University, 
in educating men in literature, the arts, natural sciences 
and so on is doing a useful work and ought to be 
maintained. Moreover, I know that there are men of 

146 A Memoir and Letters 

high ability among the professors. Ferguson has now 
made an issue which ought to be fought out to a con- 
clusion and that conclusion should release the Uni- 
versity from politics for good and all. But it will take 
several years to do it and while the fight is on the 
University is both a football and a target and is apt 
to be pretty well mutilated before the rumpus is over. 

However, I think your new tone of hopefulness is 
the one to have. Let us from now on hope and fight 
for the best instead of expecting the worst. I am 
pleased with your attitude and will try to emulate it. 
With affectionate regards, 


To George C. Fraser. 

July 9, 1917. 

My dear Fraser : I found yours here on my return 
from Chicago. If by any happy accident Mrs. Dab- 
ney and I should come East we should look forward 
to seeing you, but we will, I think stick very closely 
at home during this fall and winter. 

About present conditions I confess I find myself so 
confused that I bring forth nothing very certain — I 
admit that myself. I fear you would not benefit by 
my talk or observations. Things are too uncertain for 
mortal man. The panorama of events has gotten so 
big that I get utterly confused. One thing I fear and 
that is that the war may last three to five years. This 
is the view of sound military men and many others 
of good common sense. Yet I hope against hope that 
we may see the end speedily and without more fearful 

The War Period 147 

bloodshed. However America is getting a certain 
amount of chastening from these calamities and will 
eventually learn a certain amount of sense. It may 
be that we will all be called on for fearful sacrifices. 

I see in my journeyings around thousands and thou- 
sands of stalwart, clean-cut, fine looking young men in 
uniform and on their way to training and the front. 
When I go to Chicago and other large cities, however, 
it seems to me in a way a pity and a shame that clean 
fine young men should have to die to preserve liberty 
and happiness for the swarms of maggots of the 
human kind I see wriggling in the vile heaps we call 
our cities. Are our sons to give their lives to pre- 
serve the happiness in rottenness and freedom for vice 
of these mongrel wretches, none of whom are going to 
sacrifice anything? It makes me very sad and yet, 
as I tell my boy, it has always been this way and always 
will be. Men have to give their lives for the unworthy 
as well as the worthy. If ten men of Sodom had been 
worthy it would have been preserved and would have 
been worth dying for. . . . 

Somehow I didn't see Daniels' 1 outburst of the 
Fourth of July. I suppose because I was in Culver 
on that day and didn't see the papers the next. I 
would like to see this explosion but will say in advance 
that whatever it is I would probably not be much 
delighted by it as Daniels represents just that type 
of half-educated, half-civilized Southern politician who 
is my especial abhorrence. No doubt you have some- 
thing of the same in the North but not quite the same. 

1 Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson Cabinet. 

148 A Memoir and Letters 

No place on earth but Dixie can produce this flannel- 
mouthed, ignorant type I am sure. Another sad re- 
sult of the surrender at Appomattox is, as the negroes 
put it, "the bottom rail got on top." For many rea- 
sons I do not regret that the South lost the Civil 
War — indeed for nearly all — but one thing that some- 
times makes me wish that we had won our indepen- 
dence is the emerging of these "half-strainers" from 
the bottom to the top. These the war liberated much 
more than it did the Africans. This is the day of 
the poor white in the South and of his chosen apostles, 
and Daniels is the type of these apostles. 

Let me hear from you now and then. We are both 
busy men but I don't want to lose or allow to diminish 
so valued a friendship. As ever, 

L. M. Dabney. 

Like all serious men Mr. Dabney realized the tre- 
mendous task America had undertaken and the knowl- 
edge of the lives that would have to be sacrificed 
depressed him profoundly. The losses of the British 
and the French lay heavy on his heart, and he dreaded 
the thought that soon Americans would be fighting 
and dying with the Allies. 

To S. B. Dabney. 

July 21, 1917. 

Dear Sam : . . . Stella and Elizabeth leave for Ten- 
nessee Monday morning. . . . Everything seems dead 
and the future not encouraging. I feel very low 
spirited about the War. . . . France, I think, is almost 

The War Period 149 

exhausted and England more so than we have any 
notion. The submarines go on taking their toll and 
the exhaustion of shipping is not more than eighteen 
months off. If we depend on Yankee politicians to 
stop all this I wouldn't bet on it. It will take the whole 
resources of this mighty nation compressed, consoli- 
dated, and hurled at the Germans in one mighty tre- 
mendous effort to shake them in the least, but we falter 
and fool along with every second's delay meaning the 
blood of some mother's son. 

God only knows what is before us ! . . . 

The cause of France was especially near his heart. 
He loved its history, its civilization, and its culture. 
He traced his own ancestry back to the Huguenot 
D'Aubignes and always said that his love of the beau- 
tiful, his lack of sentimentality, and stern love of justice 
were due to his Gallic blood. The following extract 
from an appeal made in a campaign to raise money 
for the French Wounded in 191 7, expresses his senti- 
ments towards France: 

General Joffre has said that France had the honor of 
writing a small page of American history with her blood. 
This statement is too modest. Struggling against great 
odds the Colonies would never have achieved their inde- 
pendence had not France contributed generously both of 
blood and money. The ungrateful suggestion has been 
made that in rendering this aid the monarchical government 
of France was rather moved by hatred of an ancient enemy 
than desire to assist the cause of freedom. Nothing is 

150 A Memoir and Letters 

farther from the historic truth. A reluctant king long 
deferred taking our part and his autocratic father-in-law, 
the Emperor of Austria, repeatedly advised him against 
making common cause with American rebels. It was the 
enthusiasm of all France for the cause of human liberty 
which forced the hands of King and Kaiser and America 
received her freedom. Never in the history of nations was 
there a gift more generous, more unselfish. . . . And now 
beautiful France, who gave us all this, stands with her 
back to the wall, defending not only her own, but our 
liberties and the liberties of everyone. Had she failed 
us our lot would have been that of any other Colony of 
Great Britain. We would not permanently have lost our 
rights, our language, our culture, or anything that men 
hold dear. The altars of our Gods would have remained, 
our sanctuaries would not have been desolated — we would 
still have remained a people and a great people. 

But France, mother of civilization, of ideas, of taste, of 
beauty, the land of light and freedom, the torch-bearer of 
the nations, is in peril of her life. All her fairness, her 
beauty, her ancient glories, her delicate charm, her art, her 
language— the vehicle of science, of eloquence, of poetry, 
of the most exquisite literature — her very name may be 
blotted from the roll of nations. Modern Athens is to be 
stamped flat, her temples destroyed by new Goths. The 
American Republic sent Franklin to implore aid of France. 
The French Republic, not "too proud to fight" but too 
proud to ask aid in her extremity, has called to her side 
only her own gallant brood. They are dying and will die 
without a cry for help, striking to the last with beak and 
claw as befits the progeny of the Gallic game-cock. They 
are not only dying, they are suffering from mangling 
wounds, from frozen limbs, from gangrene, from mutila- 
tions and horrors beyond description and yet they complain 
not at all. They ask nothing. 

The War Period 151 

But shall generous America await a demand for pity and 
assistance from these, the sons of those who gave us the 
high gift of freedom? To do so would be the basest in- 
gratitude. And Dallas, rich prosperous, safe and happy, 
should she be the last to rush to the assistance of those who 
in their own bodies have suffered that we and our children 
may remain free ? Money should flow not by handf uls but 
in rivers for those wounded Frenchmen. So only can we 
respect ourselves as the beneficiaries of France and say 
with truth "we have paid the debt." 

Think of Yorktown! Surely the response of this great, 
young, free city will be more than generous; it will be 
magnificent ! 

In September 191 7, on reading one evening in the 
paper that Guynemer, the great French Ace, was miss- 
ing, he was much affected. Restless and overwrought 
he could not sleep and got up in the night to write the 
following poem which was published in the New York 
Times and republished in other papers including the 
London Times. 

September 27, 1917. 

Dear Sam: Reading yesterday that Guynemer, 
the French flyer who has downed fifty-two Germans 
had disappeared somewhere in Flanders, supposed to 
be killed, and being a little wakeful last night, the 
enclosed lines came into my head. Are they any 
good? . . . Affectionately 


152 A Memoir and Letters 


Young rider of the storm, Knight Errant of the air ! 
Wert thou stricken driving with unveiled eyes 
Against the tents of the dawn goddess, or like a meteor 
Blazing on the sky of evening, hast thou fallen ? 
Oh, not in equal flight, thou Gallic Eagle 
Were quenched thy lightnings, drooped thy pinions, 
But striking with beak and claw, the carrion kites en- 
Not for thee the slow kine, happy meadows, 
Soft sunny hours, long twilight of old age 
Or voices of thy children. But remembered 
Shalt thou be by France, the kindly Mother, 
With Breton Bertrand, Bayard, mighty Roland, 
All the starred band of ancient knighthood. 
For thee the solemn choir shall raise the psean. 
Shaking the tattered banners 'neath the transept. 
Of thee the maids shall sing, with rosy feet 
The purple clusters pressing. Thee shall praise 
The sunbrowned matron, nursing her babe 
In peace beneath the olive, and teach the prattler 
To lisp thy name. And the simple guardian 
Of fleecy herds beholding some wanderer 
Of night burn on the way of heaven, shall hail 
Thee, climbing the Empyrean, in youth immortal 
Forever warden of the Eastern Marches. 

To S. B. Dabney. 

September 29, 1917. 

My dear Brother: I have just received your let- 
ter and am much gratified at your reception of my 
little effort. While I realize that you are affected by 
fraternal feeling, still, I am glad I struck the vein 
that you also admire. I think, however, that your 

The War Period 153 

mind and mine, in matters of this kind run through 
nearly the same channel. 

I did not undertake to write a sonnet, which you 
remember rhymes, and there are no rhymes in this 
because I simply haven't a command of the art suffi- 
cient to undertake it. I realize, also, that I have not 
written English blank verse, as there are superfluous 
and also deficient feet in the different lines. What 
guided me all the time was the Greek form. I do not 
know that I have used it or could, but in a general way 
I have tried to approximate the form of strophe and 

I have forgotten very nearly all the Greek I ever 
knew. I have even forgotten the poetry, except just 
a few of the old choruses, but the form, feeling and 
sentiment of the best Greek poets have gripped my 
soul. In the qualities of deep profound emotion, per- 
fect good taste, lofty but governed imagination, and 
perfection in the use of words, I don't think our very 
greatest, even Shakespeare, have quite reached it, 
though Shakespeare, of course, is incomparable. Mil- 
ton, here and there, approximates it or reaches it — I 
recollect particularly the chorus of Samson Agonistes. 
You will perhaps say from this that I have remembered 
both Milton and the Greek models too well to be called 
strictly original, but while I might have been stimulated 
and affected very strongly by the ideas of others, I 
tried to express strictly what was in my own heart. 

I don't think I would want to publish this now be- 
cause, the subject of the poem may not be dead. He 
has disappeared apparently without leaving a sign. If 

iS4 A Memoir and Letters 

he has gone isn't this a noble end for such a man ; to 
disappear from human ken as some of the heroes and 
demigods in the Norse, the Greek and the Hebrew 
mythology ; to start forth into the heavens and to van- 
ish after exploits unequaled by any other mortal 
man? . . . 

To Charles W. Dabney. 

October, 191 7. 

My dear Brother: ... I have been making some 
speeches to farmers urging them to subscribe for a 
Liberty Loan. I would not say it to anyone else but 
you and my wife, but the committee here say that there 
has been a better response among the farmers where 
I have spoken than from other sections. I have not 
attempted to be eloquent at all, and I certainly have 
not poured into them any socialistic theories or rot, 
but have simply talked to them the pure gospel, as I 
believe it, as to the nature of the liberties they have 
to defend. I have taken them back a bit over the 
history of our race and the various crises in which 
it had to defend civil and religious liberty and establish 
it in this world. You know just what I believe — I 
have talked it to the people simply. I certainly got a 
good many tears from the old men ; the committee say 
I have also drawn money, which is harder to draw 
from an Anglo-Saxon farmer than anything else. He 
will cheerfully give either his blood or his tears before 
he will part with his dollar. I am going out this after- 
noon to one of the largest towns in the county to make 
another speech. 

i * ^1 


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T.he War Period 155 

I honestly believe that the politicians waste a great 
opportunity in not speaking plainly to the people and 
anchoring them to the old simple faiths and ideals of 
our race and liberty under the law ; instead of all this 
crooked nonsense that comes out of dark cellars, in- 
habited by German or Russian socialists whose forms 
quiver at the sound of the tread of the policeman over 
their heads. We, whose free ancestors were always 
free, are surrendering the principles of liberty which 
have slowly grown with the ages, which were devel- 
oped from our needs, suited to our needs and under 
which we have grown great and spread the doctrines 
of mercy, order, and just administration of the law 
to the four quarters of the globe. We are being urged 
by our politicians to abandon all this and to get for 
ourselves false nostrums hatched but yesterday by 
slaves. Did anyone ever hear the like of it? 

But the people will respond to the truth, as I have 
found out, when you tell it to them. I believe that our 
southern people are still of the race of the old Sea- 
wolves and when they are stirred up they will show it. 

If I can avoid it I will not go East now as I am very 
busy but if I do I will spend a night with you in 

Dearest love to all, especially to my namesake Lewis 
Clark and his mother. Tell her she must take good 
care of this Lewis. I hope he will do honor to an old 
and honored name and bear it more worthily than I 
have. Affectionately, 


156 A Memoir and Letters 

From the time of our going into the war, Mr. Dab- 
ney threw all his weight into the winning of it. He 
made numerous appeals for the Liberty Loans, the 
War Charities, and the Red Cross, and aroused and 
strengthened patriotic fervor throughout the city and 
county of Dallas. 

The following address, delivered in October, 191 7, 
and referred to by the Dallas News as one of the most 
eloquent addresses ever heard in Dallas, draws the line 
clearly between Prussian and Anglo-Saxon ideals. It 
was repeated several times and published for wide 


The greatest crisis in the history of the Anglo-Celtic 
races is upon us, and serious men must consider their duty 
and translate resolution into action. I know that many 
whose views carry weight, suggest that we banish serious 
thought, that we perform our appointed tasks, then devote 
our leisure to such frivolous amusements as may make us 
forget the horrors that surround and await us, the stern 
decisions that we must make would we be free. 

I cannot assent to such counsels, and believe you will not 
yield to their seductions. I address Christian men and 
patriots, who being such, have made the choice between 
things temporal, sensual, trivial, and soul benumbing, and 
things spiritual, life, death, and judgment after death. The 
shallow and weak shrink from high thought and high re- 
solves, but those worthy to be free will neither require sensual 
anaesthetics against contemplation of painful duties, nor 
falter when supreme sacrifices are to be made. 

Let me remind you of an historic parallel. Babylon was 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 157 

blockaded by Persians. Weary of the heroic mood, 
Belshazzar, the King, gave a feast. The air was heavy 
with incense, the tables glittering with gold and crystal, 
groaned beneath luxurious viands, hoarded from a starving 
people. The wine cup went round while the voluptuous 
thinly clad forms of girls swayed and postured before the 
great King to the lascivious pleadings of the Babylonian 
lyre. Forgetful of the destruction sitting at the gates, all 
went well within the banquet hall, which rang with that 
empty laughter the wise man has likened to the crackling 
of thorns under a pot. Then on the wall of the Chamber, 
before the startled eyes of these sodden voluptuaries 
appeared a finger writing in letters of living fire, "Mene! 
Mene! Tekel Upharsin" — "Thou art weighed in the balance 
and found wanting, this night shall thy kingdom be taken 
from thee and given to Cyrus the Persian. ,, 

Shall we imitate sensual Asiatics, drugging our souls 
against thought, or shall we rather seek examples from our 
own ancestors, highly think, nobly resolve, and nobly act? 
The voice of experience, of God himself, pronounces woe 
to profane joys. Let us not be of those to whom in the 
midst of dreams a voice speaks "Thou fool, this night thy 
soul shall be required of thee." Let us rather, with firm- 
ness, think and act as strong, free, and Christian men. 

Our first duty, then, in this crisis is to compose our own 
souls to a firm and unbending resolution to a will to con- 
quer, hard as steel, seeking of Almighty God that serene 
composure which aforetime has wrought the heroes and 
martyrs of our race to give their lives, thinking them as 
nothing if thereby righteousness, justice, mercy, and free- 
dom might be established. Nor do I advise you to live 
sadly or sourly, nor that you should be in perpetual gloom, 
but rather that you go about your appointed work cheer- 
fully, laboring vigorously, resting peacefully for renewed 
labor, full of that pleasure which comes from duty well 
performed, and of the noble serenity of those, who have 

158 A Memoir and Letters 

made the high decision. Omit no innocent means of 
recreation, be happy where happiness may be had from 
simple uncorrupting pleasures, but seek no anodyne in 
dissipation against painful facts, or manly resolutions. 

Your duty in this respect is imperative in that you are 
thoughtful Christian people, you are of those of whom it 
is said, "Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have 
lost its savor wherewith shall it be salted?" In every crisis 
of the struggle for liberty it has been a small minority who 
have willed to be free and have made their will concrete 
achievement. When the decision was to be made whether 
Europe should be Asiatic under Persian domination, or 
should remain Aryan and thereby be prepared to receive and 
spread Christian culture, of all Southern European races it 
was the Greeks alone, and of the Greeks only a few tribes 
who determined to resist to the death, and among these 
few were many traitors. So when the Armada threatened 
England a majority were supine, many false, but a few, 
mostly stern Puritans, dared confront the colossal power 
of Spain. So later, Cromwell's Ironsides, who brought a 
King to the scaffold and for all time ended in England 
the divine right of kings, never exceeded 60,000. We have 
derived a false view of history from our school books if 
we believe things were otherwise during our revolution. 
The patriots were always in a minority. While Washing- 
ton's ragged, unshod troops marked the snow at Valley 
Forge with their blood, the nearby city of Philadelphia, 
with a royal army as welcome guests, engaged in the riot 
of the "Mischianza," Major Andre and Peggy Shippen, 
future wife of Arnold, being leading figures. A large 
element of Americans were supinely neutral, a great body 
of the poorer classes in the South, of the richer in the 
North, were Tories. A minority willed to be free and 
made their wills effective. So now, in this larger struggle 
for liberty it is for some to will highly, to dare highly; 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 159 

for many to fail in understanding, in Fortitude, in stubborn 
resistance to ill fortune. 

It is for you to make the choice. Will you be of those 
who set the example or of those who follow afar and 
unwillingly, of those who will not bow the neck, or of those 
who submit? Will you enroll yourselves with the cham- 
pions and martyrs of liberty, or will you be slaves? 

A nation is like an axe, with a back of iron and a firm 
cutting edge of steel. Will you be the tempered steel or 
the base metal? Not only must you attune your soul to 
this attitude of unbreakable resolution, you must bring 
others to the same fortitude. You must be preachers of 
the faith which is in you, you must spread the sacred flame 
of patriotism, you must enlighten the ignorant, rouse those 
who are sleeping, stiffen the resolution of those of faint 
heart. As a corollary of this is the duty of opposing and 
repressing the speech and works of traitors, cowards, 
pacifists, and spies. Everywhere breaking out like a vile 
disease on the body politic is the work of those who would 
have Prussia win this war, or would have America lose it. 
War industries are being bombed, railways attacked, food- 
stuffs destroyed, gins, compresses and oil mills break out 
in flames, and worse yet, treason whispering softly, spreads 
its propaganda of doubt, discouragement and delay while 
pacifism like some poisonous spider, spins its cowardly 
slime, intending to paralyze the arm of freedom in the very 
act of delivering the decisive blow to a murdering tyranny. 
Socialism too raises its reptile head, and darts its forked 
tongue against that individual liberty which it would destroy 
by the arms of a militant German socialized state. 

Your influence must be brought to bear on our govern- 
ment which weakly suffers treason to thrive and even strike 
its knives in the backs of our soldiers. Politicians must 
be made to know that catering to the traitor vote, the 
pacifist vote, the Hun vote, is not the royal path to political 
preferment. That kindness to traitors now will be remem- 

160 A Memoir and Letters 

bered at the next election, but remembered to the ruin of 
those who indulge it. 

Liberty must bruise the head of the serpent, or it will 
strike its fangs into her vitals. There are but two words 
to traitors, Silence or Death! Nor shall we permit them 
at this time to exercise their so-called free speech to debate 
with us our right to defend institutions, the accumulated 
treasure of a thousand years inherited from our free ances- 
tors, dearer to us than life. As we impress our govern- 
ment with our unalterable determination to insist on these 
things, so as private citizens must we set our faces against 
treason or slackness, and as a community we must suppress 
it with vigor. Those who are not with us are against us. 

Though infamously active, with ramifications in both 
houses of Congress and elsewhere, the rotten part of our 
nation is but small; it must be and will be cut off. But 
though the Prussian Aid Society in our midst is small, it 
is vigorous, and with an energy stimulated by the feebleness 
with which our government acts against it. The war then 
has to be fought abroad against the armed forces of the 
enemy, and at home against its domestic allies, backed and 
assisted by the inherent inefficiency of democratic institu- 
tions for the stern business of war. Not many of you 
will be called to the trenches, but all of you are called to this 
domestic war, less deadly, perhaps, but more difficult. I do 
firmly believe that our struggle at home is to be far more 
difficult than war abroad, that it will be easier for us to 
organize our military strength for battle than to trace to 
all its myriad sources the disease of domestic treason, and 
stamp it out. Let us therefore supplement the weakness of 
government by politicians with an individual spirit of 
flaming patriotism in defense of our ancient freedom. 

But no willingness and exaltation will win the war unless 
we understand and apply those measures which will provide 
the materials for life at home and support of our allies and 
our own troops abroad. These materials embrace all 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 161 

necessaries to sustain life, to carry on basic industries, and 
to furnish munitions of war of the best quality and in 
lavish abundance. 

Ours is the task of not only maintaining our own army 
in the field, but of feeding, clothing and supplying the 
armies of our allies and their civilian populations, or they 
will go hungry, unclad, despair and abandon the struggle. 
England, France, Italy, in large measure have diverted 
their man power from the production of food and neces- 
saries of life to the business of war and materials of war. 
We must produce for all, must feed all, while ourselves 
carrying on at top speed, with the fury of a Vulcan ham- 
mering out the thunderbolts of Jove, the business of pro- 
ducing materials of war for our own armies. 

With all our efforts there will not be enough for all. 
Without a rigid economy we had as well make up our 
minds to be beaten. We cannot waste the means of fighting 
and fight as well. Economy then, to a patriot, is not a 
matter of choice but an inexorable law and the economy 
which will win is a reduction of the actual necessities of 
existence, food, clothing, and fuel, to the minimum of 
healthy life, and the cutting off of all luxuries. By luxuries 
I mean every article, every pleasure, every indulgence, every 
vanity or extravagance not absolutely necessary to decent 
living, or to the maintenance, repair and renewal of our 
necessary industries, plants and machinery. We must live, 
be clothed, and housed, the national industrial plant must 
be kept in first class running order, we cannot permit that 
to be impaired or we cannot produce. 

This war is not to be fought with money, or even with 
men, but with materials, food, clothing, munitions. They 
cannot be produced without labor no matter how fertile 
our lands or how abundant our raw materials. Our labor 
is in a large part diverted to war, that of our Allies more 
so. We cannot produce in full measure without severe 
economy ; we will run short and thereby lose the war unless 

1 62 A Memoir and Letters 

we make good under-production by super-economy. We 
must carry the load of war short handed, must make good 
the loss of workers by reducing wants. 

For a sufficient saving we must reduce consumption of 
necessities to a minimum; unproductive consumption must 
cease entirely. Economists tell us that even in time of peace 
a nation is doomed to poverty which unduly indulges in 
unproductive consumption. Productive consumption is that 
use of an article which results in the production of others. 
One invests twenty dollars in a plow. The plow in time is 
consumed, worn out, but in the meantime has been the 
means of producing a thousand bushels of wheat, or one 
hundred bales of cotton. Unproductive consumption on 
the other hand, is the investment in that which being used 
up conduces to the production of nothing else, as fire-works, 
which being burned, leave nothing behind, create nothing, 
or rich and fragile laces, or luxurious clothing, ornaments 
and generally all useless articles of luxury which contribute 
nothing to the production of necessities, ministering only to 
pleasure or vanity. There is a double loss in consumption 
of that kind, in that it not only results in pure waste of 
labor and materials put into it, but it draws labor from 
the production of necessities. Thus laborers manufactur- 
ing superfluities or providing amusements are not only 
withdrawn from fruitful production of necessities, but like 
the drones in the hive consume the honey stored by the 

It is a familiar fallacy which has soothed the conscience 
of the extravagant in all ages, that their indulgence in 
luxuries puts money in circulation and enriches the com- 
munity. On the contrary, the laborers withdrawn from 
useful toil to produce superfluities must be fed and clothed 
by labor of others, and the common store is thus smaller, 
more expensive, and all must be deprived of some necessi- 
ties that a few may have too many luxuries. Louis XIV 
believed himself the benefactor of France by investing 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 163 

millions in the palaces and parks of Versailles and Marly, 
on which hundreds of thousands of skilled workmen were 
employed for years, but the people so far from being en- 
riched were reduced to eat the thistles by the wayside, and 
the Revolution followed. If unproductive consumption has 
these effects in peace, what shall be said of those poor and 
rich alike, for both are guilty, who now insist on taking 
from the scanty stock of labor the materials for their 
pleasures, their vanities, or superfluities? Our greatest 
efforts to produce necessaries of life and munitions of war 
are not enough and in these times when our existence is at 
stake, shall we permit hundreds of thousands of skilled men 
and women to labor to produce vanities, while others have 
not only to produce necessaries for our armies, the armies 
and people of our Allies, but for these useless laborers as 
well? Shall our scanty supply of coal be burned to make 
luxuries while we have not enough to warm ourselves and 
make guns and shells? Shall our overburdened railways 
haul this trash while arms and food are sidetracked? 

I read not long ago of a government shipyard running 
on half time, for lack of coal and labor, while right by it 
800 highly skilled wood workers, were engaged in making 
musical instruments. The makers and venders of these 
things will not stop until they have to; they will have to 
do so when an aroused people cease to buy their wares. If 
we do not cease unproductive consumption and unproduc- 
tive manufacture, if we are unable to produce what is needed 
by our Allies and ourselves, if thereby the war is protracted, 
then the blood of every American boy which is thereafter 
spilled is on our hands. You, who by purchasing unneces- 
sary articles divert labor from necessary work, may be the 
murderer of your own son. 

Another duty is to invest in government securities. We 
must keep our necessary industries going, plants must be 
kept up, highways and railways must not run down, the 
machinery of production must be kept running at high 

164 A Memoir and Letters 

speed and the highest efficiency. Therefore we should not 
take from our capital, that is, our plants, machinery, rail- 
ways, factories, in order to lend to the government. Let 
these depreciate and we stand to lose the war, and after 
the war to enter the era of cutthroat competition which will 
follow, badly crippled. What therefore we lend to the 
government must come from savings from present income 
and from savings from increased production. It is said 
that the total income of the American people is fifty billions 
per annum; the government will need fifteen billions. We 
must and can save it by reducing expenditures, by increased 
industry, thereby not only upholding the government but 
increasing our own estates. Nor can production be in- 
creased by merely raising wages, or increasing profits. 
The workman who by unjustly striking raises his wages a 
dollar a day, does not add a dollar to the wealth of the 
country, but transfers it from the pocket of another to his 
own. The capitalist who takes profits unjustly, enriches 
not his country, merely plunders his fellow, while the work- 
man who produces fifty per cent more than heretofore in 
his eight hours' labor, to that extent increases the wealth 
and fighting power of his country, and the capitalist who 
enlists his dollars in productive enterprise for fair profits 
becomes a benefactor and a patriot. 

We must support the government by our savings and that 
can be done by increased economy and increased production, 
not by fleecing each other. No man whether workman or 
rich man should make a profit out of our nation's agony. 
Profiteering will no longer be borne, it must cease here 
and now. Those who attempt it should be dealt with as 

And now, having recognized our duties, let us consider 
the nature and gravity of the crisis which confronts us. 
The liberties which have blessed us, the treasures which we 
inherit, for which others died, have cost us no effort of 
our own; like light and air we count them as free bounty 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 165 

of nature. Burke has said that it is often necessary to 
recur to first principles; it is well then to appraise this our 
heritage, to consider its nature, to remember from whence 
it came, to reflect whether it is worth fighting for. Bear 
with me a moment for a brief journey along the stream 
of history to the sources of our race, and of the kindred 
race with whom we are now at war, the stakes being the 
freedom of the world. 

More than a thousand years ago the German tribes 
living on the North Sea, Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians, 
putting forth in their long boats sought a new home in 
England. Savages and cutthroats though they were, they 
brought with them certain ideas which more profoundly 
influenced human destiny than any other, saving only 
Christianity. They believed that the freeman was entitled 
in public assembly in Witenagemote, or "Thing," to make 
laws binding alike on King and subjects. They held that 
the King was merely head of the tribe in peace, its leader in 
war, but not the source of law, nor sole wielder of authority. 
They originated the idea that a freeman could not be pun- 
ished save by the judgment of his equals, after trial in 
open assemblage of the tribe. More firmly than any other 
primitive people they asserted the right to individual liberty, 
to private property, a voice in discussion of public affairs, 
and the right to bear arms. Here were the germs of all 
our institutions, government by the people, trial by jury, 
free speech, free courts, security of private right, under 
tribal law. In spite of incursions by Danes and Norsemen 
we see the Saxons prosper and develop these institutions 
secure with their island stronghold. With Alfred the Great, 
the Christianized Englishman has in at least rude outline 
established that system of laws and customs under which 
we still live. The Norman conquest came, but we see the 
ruder Saxon impregnate and inform the more cultured 
French with his ideas of freedom and instead of the conti- 
nental system of feudal tyranny, destroying English liberty, 

1 66 A Memoir and Letters 

we see it informed with and developing to something 
nobler and finer in the free English air. So in 121 5 A. D., 
English and Normans alike wrested from a Norman tyrant 
the Great Charter. Not a grant of rights from King to 
slave, but an enforced declaration and enumeration of rights 
always possessed by freemen. Then on the island of 
Runnymede (or Runningmeed) were declared those essen- 
tial principles which have never been surrendered by our 
race, though often brought in question, which today form 
the framework of Anglo-Saxon institutions, alike in Texas 
as in England, South Africa, Australia, or Canada. This 
great document contained 64 paragraphs, or declarations, 
by the King of the conceded rights of the subject. Listen 
to some of them : 

"No aid shall be imposed in our kingdom unless by 
general council of our kingdom. " 

"No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or misused, 
or outlawed, nor shall we pass upon, nor will we send upon 
him, save by lawful judgment of his peers or by the law 
of the land." 

"We will sell to no man, we will not deny to any man 
either justice or right." 

So also we find here provision for open, free, and fre- 
quent courts, presided over by independent judges learned 
in the law, against seizure of private property without due 
compensation, for the right of free assemblage, to bear 
arms, the security of the domicile, the right to be tried 
only on the testimony of credible witnesses and by jury, 
all this declared as the possession and heritage of English- 
men as of right at a time when other peoples of Europe 
were divided into two classes, masters and chattels. Do 
your hearts not swell, you who inherit this? Other races 
may have achieved freedom, your ancestors for fifty genera- 
tions were born free, lived free, died free, and transmitted 
this treasure of freedom to you, their remotest descendants, 
unimpaired, and undiminished. 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 167 

I can only briefly point out to you how these principles 
once declared, have been maintained though often brought 
into question, fought for, defended alike against priests 
and tyrants, suffered for, died for, slowly added to and 
broadened out, by declarations of religious tolerance and 
liberty, as well as civil. But as a guide to our duty in this 
crisis, when the call comes to us to strike a blow in the 
good old cause, let me recall to you certain episodes of our 
history. In the 16th century the Empire of Spain was 
mistress of Belgium, Burgundy, a large part of what is 
now France and Italy, master of the two Sicilies, of the 
treasures of Mexico and Peru, of the East and West Indies, 
in possession of an army never beaten, the terror of Europe, 
and of a navy in power and number far beyond any other. 
Spain was then to England as an eagle to a sparrow, an 
Empire comparatively speaking far more formidable and 
irresistible than Germany is to-day. This power, having 
mastered the whole earth, determined to crush the last 
refuge, the Island stronghold of liberty. The greatest fleet, 
the most irresistible army, the most noted commanders, 
were ready. Even racks and thumbscrews to subdue the 
wills of stubborn heretics were provided. To meet this 
challenge there was only a petty race of islanders, three 
million at most, with no army, a small navy, but stout 
hearts, men who not only did not shun death but went out 
to meet it, joyfully. It is said that when a swift galley 
brought the news to Plymouth that the Armada had sailed, 
the captains of the fleet, Drake, Hawkins, Frobisher, 
Howard, Grenville, good English names never to be for- 
gotten, were playing at a game of bowls, smoking their 
long pipes of Virginia tobacco. Not affrighted, but exult- 
ing rather, they thanked God that the Spaniards had put to 
sea. A handful of little ships against the tall galleons and 
mighty armament of Spain, but manned by English hearts 
of oak, who feared God, but feared not man nor devil, 
going into a battle of fearful odds, joyfully thanking God 

1 68 A Memoir and Letters 

that they were privileged to strike a blow for our ancient 
freedom. You know the result. The wreck of the Armada 
strewed the northern ocean, a crippled remnant only fled 
home, the island bulldogs still tearing at their flanks. 

Again, when all Europe was losing the last remnants of 
liberty to kings who were setting up personal autocracies 
upon the ruins of feudalism, the Stuarts, that race accursed 
of God, undertook to cast down the ancient landmarks of 
English liberty. In France, Spain and Germany the last 
organs of popular government and of feudal liberties were 
being extinguished, not so in England. Cromwell and his 
Ironsides at Marston Moor and Naseby ground to powder 
the power of the vain king who would have fitted a conti- 
nental yoke to the unbowed necks of Englishmen. These 
fierce republicans not only dared do battle with their King, 
but to strike off his head, and with it struck down forever 
the doctrine of divine right of kings. After a season of 
relapse under the two sons of Charles the First, in due time 
the question of English freedom was forever settled by the 
final ejection of the Stuarts and the establishment of 
constitutional monarchy. These reforms achieved by the 
sword were declared, amplified, and established by a series 
of great statutes and declarations, making up what is known 
as the English Constitution, the Petition of Rights, the Act 
of Settlement, the Mutiny Act, the Habeas Corpus Act, the 
Act of Religious Toleration, these are the legitimate progeny 
of the Great Charter and its fulfilment. 

But the scroll of liberty was not completed. When a 
German King of England conceived the idea of denying 
historic rights to Englishmen in America — again we see 
Englishmen on these shores put forth a declaration repeat- 
ing the assertion of their ancient liberties. Hear it : 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident : That all men 
are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator 
with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, 
liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 169 

rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving 
their just powers from the consent of the governed. When 
a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably 
the same object, evinces a design to reduce the world under 
an absolute military despotism, it is the right, it is the duty 
of mankind to resist such a government, and to provide new 
guards for the future security of mankind." 

And when again these principles were vindicated by 
sword, in the first ten amendments to the United States 
Constitution, we find again a new Magna Charter, a new 
proclamation of the everlasting rights of man. It was as 
if our ancestors regarded these as so important that they 
proclaimed them again and again; and again and yet again 
they sealed the covenant of freedom with their blood. 

Let me repeat to you a few of the declarations of this, 
our latest Magna Charta : 

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment 
of religion, or prohibiting free exercise thereof, or abridg- 
ing the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of 
the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Govern- 
ment for a redress of grievances." 

For that Sidney Russell died on the scaffold, Hampden 
on the battlefield, for that John Bunyan sat long years in 
Bedford jail, that blind seer to whom God having sealed 
the eyes of the flesh opened the inner vision to behold the 
delectable mountains, and to look undazzled on 

"The Azure throne, the Sapphire blaze, 
Where angels tremble while they gaze." 

Listen again: 

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not 
be infringed." 

"No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any 

That is no vain declaration. The outraged people of 

170 A Memoir and Letters 

Scotland, for faith's sake suffered this from the Stuarts, 
with outrage worse than death, insults from a drunken 
soldiery, and often death itself. The free people of Belgium 
to-day suffer this, with circumstances of unspeakable 

Hear again : 

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, 
houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches 
and seizures shall not be violated" — "No person shall be 
held to answer for crime, unless on a presentment or indict- 
ment of a grand jury — nor shall any person be subject for 
the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy — nor shall be 
compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against him- 
self nor shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, with- 
out due process of law, nor shall private property be taken 
for public use without just compensation." 

I have heard some, even college professors, speak of this 
bill of rights as if it were a new and happy discovery of 
our American fathers, who struck it off seated around a 
table in Philadelphia. Not so, there is not a word which 
is not a jewel taken from its old historic setting, not a line 
but is wet with the blood of the righteous who died to make 
it true. Rather is our system like the Saxon oak growing 
a thousand years, striking its roots deep into history, nour- 
ished by free air, drawing its sap from racial characteristics, 
spreading its boughs, putting on new growth to meet new 
racial needs. Our institutions are no new or raw imagina- 
tion, nor like the rash dreams brought forth in fumes of 
alcohol and tobacco, by hairy socialists in some dark cellar, 
men whose entrails quiver within them like dogs at the 
sound of the policeman's tread, but rather are they the 
development of ages, tested by storm and fire, slowly broad- 
ening out into the widest freedom under the law. 

Then too with all the grievous sins and shortcomings 
of the English peoples, as the Saxon law has grown and 
developed there has grown with it the ethics of the English 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 171 

Bible, softening, strengthening, and enriching it, so that we 
may truly say that ours is a Christian as well as a free 
civilization, that from the Spice Islands to the Arctic Circle, 
wherever is raised the meteor flag of England, wherever the 
starry banner flies, there is freedom, there is law, there is 
mercy and justice under the law. 

Is not this a heritage to die for? The thought comes to 
me, and my heart swells with emotion and pride, that here, 
listening to me, are those within whose veins courses blood 
which burned in the hearts of the very men who went forth 
against the Armada, who rode with Cromwell's Ironsides, 
who suffered at Valley Forge. Their race is our race, their 
blood our blood, they were our forefathers and the sacred 
liberties they suffered for are ours also, to cherish, to de- 
fend, if need be, to die for. 

Now let us briefly examine the history of other German 
tribes than the Angles and Saxons, and see how destiny 
and environment shaped their institutions and culture. Like 
the Saxons of the North Sea, the Germans of the interior, 
of the great forests and mountains, were ferocious savages. 
Caesar says of them, that they knew no law but their 
own wills; that they were violent, treacherous and blood- 
thirsty, no respecters of treaties nor of the ordinary laws 
of peace or war, but delighting in war; bad neighbors, not 
satisfied unless the borders of adjacent peoples were devas- 
tated and laid in ruins for leagues around them. If you 
will recall your boyhood's Latin you will remember how 
Caesar in his first book tells of the Aeduae and Sequani, 
tribes then inhabiting Alsace, imploring the assistance of 
Rome against the Suabians, then as now their neighbors, 
who under their King, Ariovistus, had crossed the Rhine, 
laid waste the Alsatian plain, destroyed houses, vines and 
fruit trees, ravished and murdered without pity, and worst 
of all had sent many into captivity across the Rhine. That 
sounds quite modern and familiar does it not? You may 
recall Ariovistus' reply to Caesar's demand to get out of 

1J2 A Memoir and Letters 

Alsace, that he had conquered that part of Gaul with the 
good German sword, that there was only one law for the 
vanquished, the will of the victor, and if Caesar wished to 
free Alsace let him come and take it. That also has a 
modern ring, and might have come from Berlin yesterday. 
Caesar being a wise man wasted no time in writing diplo- 
matic notes, but employed the only argument understood 
by the Boche in that day or this, the edge of the sword. At 
the great battle near Colmar, the Suabians were so effectu- 
ally cut to pieces that it was four hundred years before 
another German tribe, the Vandals, again brought rape, 
murder and arson, and other forms of Kultur across the 
Rhine, spreading its abominations over a horror-stricken 
earth, giving to cruelty and outrage forever the name of 

Beginning with such racial traits as their cousins, the 
Saxons, environment, which in England, sheltered by the 
four seas, promoted the gradual development of free and 
liberal institutions, had quite another effect upon those 
tribes which remained in Germany, always compelled to 
defend themselves against the pressure in their rear, battling 
fiercely with their neighbors. Traits originally fierce and 
brutal remained unsoftened and instead of the growth of 
institutions promoting freedom, grew up a harsh feudal 
discipline, necessitated by the eternal battle for existence 
against external and internal enemies, every petty prince 
or lord eventually becoming within his own domain a brutal 
tyrant, to his neighbors, a robber and murderer. 

Following the reformation of religion came the Thirty 
Years' War between Catholic and Protestant, leaving Ger- 
many utterly devastated, three-fourths of its population de- 
stroyed, the remainder so brutalized that they were willing to 
surrender the last shred of freedom for protection, the mere 
privilege of existing. 

Just when in England, about the middle of the 17th 
century, the foundations of free institutions were securely 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 173 

laid, on this wrecked and ruined Germany a great prince, 
the Elector of Brandenburg, began to lay the foundations 
of modern Prussia. Unlike England, where the citizen 
had been taught to believe that government existed by 
consent of the governed, for the happiness of the citizen, 
the Prussian Elector offered to his war- weary subjects the 
theory that all right and power existed in the State, that 
the citizen possessed no rights but only such as might safely 
be granted by the State, having in view the general good, 
that in return for safety and protection the State should 
exact from the citizen blind obedience, military service, 
and complete submission to the will of the State, embodied 
in the Sovereign. The government which thus arose was 
autocratic, military, severe, and harsh, but economical, 
efficient, and powerful. Not only disciplining its people for 
war, but subjecting them to an iron education so that the 
will of the State should be the will of the people in all 
things. Under Frederick William, he of the tall grenadiers, 
the system was perfected. Under his son Frederick the 
Great, military power was used to aggrandize Prussia and 
rob its neighbors, and so the Hohenzollern tradition has 
been maintained until we have Bismarck, the apotheosis 
of blood and iron, the robbery of France and Denmark, the 
socializing of commerce and transportation, and regimenta- 
tion of life in all its phases, the social state armed, militant, 
triumphant, the Leviathan of Hobbes. 

The Anglo-Saxon idea has taken possession of France, 
England, North and South America, the islands of the 
sea; the crowned socialist state, menacing, armed to the 
teeth, grasps middle Europe in its brazen claws. The 
world is not large enough for both. Government of the 
people, for the people must cease, or Germany must be 
beaten down. As two planets cannot move in one orbit 
without one being dashed to pieces, so either the free or the 
servile state must prevail. Of this state it has been said, 
"that it is but a feudal socialism, a government of a tyran- 

174 A Memoir and Letters 

nical few at the top of a bureaucracy, a vile aristocracy, 
buying and chaining men with old age pensions, municipal 
lodgings, sick benefits, etc., giving them like swine a full 
pail of swill, but corrupting their souls, teaching them even 
what to think, a new and worse feudalism founded on the 
corruption of men's bodies and spirits, that they may be 
the useful and brutal tools of their masters.'' 

Against this is set our free government, with all its faults, 
still proclaiming the individual liberty of man, that just 
goverments are derived by his consent, and to advance his 
happiness under equal laws. Well may the socialist every- 
where adhere to Germany, for it is Socialism with a flaming 
sword; with a crowned war lord 'tis true, but what differ- 
ence does that make? it is the machine the socialist admires, 
not the driver. Once triumphant, Hohenzollern can be re- 
placed with a committee of Scheidermans and Juggernaut, 
can roll on. 

The lines of Armageddon are drawn for the final con- 
flict, on the one side the free peoples, on the other the 
servile state; on the one side freedom under the law, on 
the other brutal force; with us the meek Christ, with them 
the ferocious Thor, God of battle, with his hammer of 
destruction, the issue being the defense of the treasured 
liberty won in the hard struggle of a thousand years. Will 
you flinch from battle to the death ? Will you even stand by 
"neither hot nor cold," or will you, as did your ancestors, 
thank God that to you is given the privilege to strike one 
blow for the good cause ? 

Englishmen have marked the path of freedom with their 
bones. Shall we yield what they have fought for? 

"If blood be the price of mastery, Great God, we have 
paid the toll." 

Will you be as the degenerate who inherits a treasure, 
but who permits it to be wrested from him, or who lavishes 

Our Duty in the Present Crisis 175 

it away for the sensual bribes of ease and luxury? The 
spoil is for the strong. Vae victis. Do not think to lose 
freedom and keep wealth. "From him who hath not shall 
be taken away even that he hath." 

Let me recall to you two historic incidents and I am done. 

When Napoleon was still a soldier of freedom the 
French army was surprised by the Austrians on the battle 
field of Marengo. He had detached a strong division under 
the command of Dessaix, a young republican general, not 
thirty years of age, with strict orders to march to a different 
objective. The sound of heavy cannonade rolling nearer 
and nearer advised Dessaix that a great battle had opened 
and was going against France. Although his staff warned 
him that variance from the orders of such a chief as 
Napoleon might cost him his life, he declared that he should 
"march to the sound of the cannon." Turning about with 
incredible swiftness, urging his men to his own fiery en- 
thusiasm, he appeared on the field just as the sun went 
down, just as the Austrian masses rolled forward tri- 
umphantly to give the finishing blow to the broken 
remnants of the French Army. Dessaix scarcely halting to 
form his men, placing himself at the head of the column, 
ordered the drums to beat the charge, and with that wild 
yell which has carried terror to the armies of tyrants upon 
an hundred fields, the Republican soldiers burst upon the 
enemy and in the expressive language of Scripture "they 
were dashed to pieces, even as the pitcher is dashed against 
the wall." But Dessaix died there, with his blood baptiz- 
ing the field of Marengo, forever sacred to the name of 

Again. At the Alamo, Colonel Travis seeing that it was 
necessary that some should die there, that the barbarian 
hordes might be stayed until the women and children were 
over the Brazos in safety, lined up his garrison of one hun- 
dred and eighty-six men and told them that those who felt 
a duty to wife and children, or for any other reason, might 

176 A Memoir and Letters 

leave, but that those who were willing to stay and certainly 
die, should step three paces to the front. At the word, one 
hundred and eighty-five stepped three paces to the front. 
The one hundred and eighty-sixth man was ill, lying help- 
less on a cot. He too demanded that his cot be moved three 
paces to the front. That man was David Bowie, and there 
they died to the last man, that you and your children, to the 
remotest generation, might dwell in peace in this rich and 
smiling land of Texas. 

Now the call comes to you. Not to die perhaps, but to 
do and to suffer. Children of the imperial race which has 
never bent the neck to oppression, will you march to the 
sound of the cannon? Sons of the "Sea Wolves," will you 
step three paces to the front ? 

I know you will! No soft suggestions of wealth or 
selfish ease will stay you. 

"Of what avail 
Are plow or sail, 
Or land, or life, 
If freedom fail?" 

To S. B. Dabney. 

November 23, 191 7. 

Dear Sam: Charley forwarded me yours of No- 
vember 6th in which you talked of writing a book on 
the Servile State. I think it would be a fine thing 
for such a book to be written, but not too long, boiled 
down, and very clear. You could write it if you would 
take the time. 

Such a book as you propose, comparing the develop- 
ment of our recorded freedom under the law with the 
German servile state, and pointing out our tendencies 

The War Period 177 

to abandon our system and adopt the servile system of 
government, would be most interesting and most use- 
ful. You must, however, try not to be too intolerant 
in setting forth your views. It is a family failing. . . . 

... As to socialistic college professors, I don't 
take quite as advanced a position as you do. I know 
that far too many men are tolerated in our colleges 
who are busy poisoning the rising generation with doc- 
trines all right for Russian Jews but not to be tolerated 
by any free Anglo-Saxon soul. However, the only 
reason they are more dangerous than others is that 
they enjoy the peculiar privilege of braying their non- 
sense into the tender ears of the young and moulding 
their minds while plastic. They should be rooted out 
of every college, and particularly out of state-con- 
trolled colleges. 

Free speech is a beautiful thing, but I do not see 
how a free Republican state can consistently hire men 
to tear down its very foundations and destroy it, just 
like rats nibbling a cheese. It seems to me that they 
ought all to be fired, and then their rights of free 
speech, guaranteed by the Constitution, should be pre- 
served to them rigidly and strictly, only they would be 
speaking from soap boxes instead of from professors' 
rostrums. How ridiculous to hire men to cut your en- 
trails out of you ! There is no free speech about that, 
but free nonsense. . . . 

He was always watchful of his brothers' interests 
as shown by this letter: 

178 A Memoir and Letters 

To Charles W. Dabney. 

January 3, 1918. 

Dear Charles: The Texas legislature which has 
just adjourned passed a law putting under strict quar- 
antine certain parts of Harris County and other coast 
counties in which the pink boll worm has been discov- 
ered. This means that the whole section will be put 
out of the raising of cotton for three years. It means 
that on top of all the other curses and pests this coast 
country has undergone, storms, insects, freezes, floods 
and what not, they are going to have the pink boll 
worm, the most dreadful of all cotton pests. 

The experts met at Houston yesterday and have 
recommended that the section of country embracing 
your land be put out of the cotton-raising section by 
quarantine. This is another thing that may affect the 
value of your land and another reason for selling if 
you can. I suggest that you sell such part as will 
bring back your original investment and the remainder 
you can hold for profit. 

I do not mean to scare you about this pink boll worm 
menace but it is there and my experience with that 
coast country is that if it isn't afflicted by a pestilence 
it's a drought, if it isn't a drought it's a cyclone, and 
if it isn't a cyclone it's the boll weevil. If the boll 
weevil lets up they have a flood, if a flood doesn't 
strike them, they have a general blight and lacking all 
these, just to fill up the gap, now comes the pink boll 
worm. That country certainly seems to have a per- 
petual curse upon it and the value of the land, in my 
opinion, is not in agriculture, but in the proximity to 

The War Period 179 

the cities. The people down there, I hear, are kicking 
and snorting about the quarantine being put on them 
but the rest of the state, being badly scared, will force 
it on them. 

This pink boll worm is a dreadful menace to the 
whole South. The Dallas News published not long 
since an article which I wrote on the subject, pointing 
out the disastrous consequences that will follow to the 
state and to the South if drastic and heroic measures 
are not taken. I advised action by Congress. Con- 
gress should immediately pass a law against the prep- 
aration for, and exportation out of the state, of cotton 
from the infected area, accompanied by suitable fines 
and penalties against farmers who plant, and gins, 
mills, railroads and compresses which receive, such 
cotton or seed, also confiscation and destruction of the 
cotton itself. The state legislature as usual made a 
fatal omission in its bill by not inserting penalties for 
planting. The people of South Texas are making a 
great effort to fight it. They are trying to pick up 
every lump of cotton, every seed, every boll and burn 
it and keep cotton out for three years. 

Failure to stamp out this menace will be the greatest 
disaster the South has suffered since Reconstruction. 
As I wrote the News: "file this in your hatband or 
wherever you keep the predictions of amateur prophets, 
take it out ten years from now and see what has hap- 
pened/' unless something is done and done soon. 1 

With ,ove Lewis. 

T Such measures were taken as to practically destroy the menace of 
the pink boll worm. 

180 A Memoir and Letters 

To S. B. Dabney. 

February, 191 8. 

Dear Sam : Yours received. Of course the chance 
of oil on yours or Charles' land is most remote but 
everyone likes to dream of striking oil or a gold mine. 
In the oil or gas business there is just one chance in 
a thousand but if in selling your land you reserve oil 
or gas rights on seventy-five or eighty acres of it there 
is no danger of your not getting plenty out of it if oil 
is struck. Gas and oil rights on eighty acres will be 
as satisfactory as on one thousand. I think it makes 
little difference to you or Charles whether you get 
half a million, one million, or two million dollars, and 
you will be just as happy in the pleasure of hope. There 
is nothing in it but a dream anyway. Why not dream 
on a small chunk of wedding cake instead of a whole 
one? . . . 

. . . The touch of Dabney bursts out of us like 
a gas explosion. I have been bitten with this tarantula 
till in order to keep from breaking and bankrupting 
myself I have tried to bring myself to the belief that 
everything is going to fail and that any kind of specu- 
lation is madness. We Dabneys cannot allow our- 
selves to mount the nightmare and go capering off into 
the realm of Queen Mab. It is an absolute disease in 
us which we have to watch like an incipient cancer 
and cut out by the roots. I do not mean the mania 
for speculation. Lots of people have that and it is 
based on laziness and greed: but we Dabneys can 
just look at a piece of swamp, then close our eyes, sit 
down in the shade, and see feathery palms waving in 

The War Period 181 

the breeze, Golden Apples like those of Hesperides, 
and the earth just bursting with fatness. ... A few 
moments of reverie and all we have to do is just spread 
our net and we think we will catch it full of roasted 
larks. . . . 

The preparation for war in America at this time 
was on a colossal scale never dreamed of before in 
the history of the world. An army of six million men 
was being trained to fight and camps for every branch 
of the service were scattered over the country. 

Texas especially on account of its mild climate was 
filled with camps. At San Antonio, officers' training 
camps started in the spring of 19 17. These were fol- 
lowed by camps for enlisted and drafted men at San 
Antonio, Houston, and Fort Worth, where several 
hundred thousand men were trained. In addition to 
these, there were numbers of flying fields in Texas — 
Ellington Field, Houston; Kelly Field, San Antonio; 
Love Field, Dallas ; and three British-Canadian Fields 
at Fort Worth. Besides Love Field, Dallas had a big 
concentration camp, — Camp Dick — for aviators, those 
in process of training as well as those waiting for 
orders to go to France. Thus, thousands of young 
men from all over the United States were brought to 
Texas, and many, realizing the vast opportunities of 
the state, returned to live there after the war was over. 

Activities for the soldiers and for the prosecution 
of the war absorbed everybody. Red Cross work, 
Liberty Loan drives, food conservation, war charities 
— in all these, as has been said, Mr. Dabney took great 

1 82 A Memoir and Letters 

interest and did his part in speaking publicly and 
working for them. People were too busy for much 
correspondence so there are few letters in the record 
of this period. Brought into personal contact with 
many young men from all parts of this country, Mr. 
Dabney was deeply impressed by the youth of America. 
Always a believer in universal military training, he 
felt that in forcing this the war would at last weld 
this nation into a great homogeneous people, the leaders 
of the world. 

The young aviators who came to Dallas for training 
were usually a fine type of college men, and Mr. Dab- 
ney delighted in having them in his home. Many 
whom he came to know well lost their lives either in 
the training camps or later in France, and the death 
of each one of them was to him a profound grief. 

The victorious end of the war, he received with a 
thankful heart but with the full realization that Amer- 
ica and the world were facing problems that would 
shake their foundations. Realizing that leadership was 
the thing most lacking in the world he sometimes felt 
depressed and gloomy over the outcome. He had how- 
ever a profound conviction that right and justice, 
would prevail and he placed his faith not in men but 
in God. 

After a break of many months in his correspondence 
comes this letter : 

To George C. Fraser. 

November i, 1918. 

My dear Fraser : Sometime since you said you would 
like to know how I feel about things in general. This 

The War Period 183 

morning the spirit moves me to express myself. . . . 
I feel (I trust without subjecting myself to the charge 
of Lese Ma jest e) that our honored president should 
just now be — hypnotized — say, so that he would for 
the time being be entirely incapacitated to dictate to 
a typewriter or wield his mellifluous fountain pen. I 
feel that his fourteen points are insufficient and unsafe 
basis for a cosy round table causerie concerning peace 
unless more precisely elucidated by the following five 
points which I now suggest : 

( 1 ) Two and two are four. 

(2) The sum of the parts equals the whole. 

(3) The square of the hypotenuse of a right angle 

triangle equals the sum of the squares of the 
other two sides. 

(4) Two solid bodies cannot occupy the same space 

at the same time. 

(5) God is Love. 

It strikes me that these propositions are fundamental 
and equally as clear and significant as Wilson's. Nec- 
essary details of application could be elaborated by 
friendly conversations and more notes from the Pres- 
ident's inexhaustible stock. ''May I not say" that this 
honeyed flow of mellifluous piffle ought to heal all the 
wounds and soothe all the anguish unspeakable and in- 
describable of Belgium, France, and Serbia. If it 
doesn't — they are an ungrateful set of pups! 

I further feel that the worst German atrocity of 
all is the flood of slimy hypocritical flattery they are 
pouring out on our President, calling on him as their 

184 A Memoir and Letters 

special advocate and friend not to yield his fourteen 
"principles/' not to give up his grand tone role of 
pacificator orbis t err arum," and god-like to stand 
between the German people and the crude brutal "ven- 
geance" of England, France, and Belgium!! 

But I have faith in God's justice still. No man 
nor set of men, nor spot-light-seeking, vain politician 
can arrest it for three reasons: the American people, 
the English, and the French. I assure you that prac- 
tically everybody here in Texas feels as I do fervently 
deep down in their heart in spite of Wilsonolatry which 
much befuddles them. 

I hope the Republicans will carry Congress — not 
that I love them — but the Democrats are now like 
thieves trying to rob our house, while it is burning and 
under cover of the smoke, of our most precious jewel, 
Liberty, and chain us up to a worse than Prussian 
bureaucracy. Once they have their clutches on the 
Public Service corporations, liberty is gone, without 
an armed rebellion. Yours as ever, 


Mr. Dabney's opinion of President Wilson frequent- 
ly expressed was that he was a doctrinaire, a stubborn 
phrase-maker and at heart a pacifist. That he was 
pushed into the war by the American people, and being 
in was pushed to vigorous action by an aroused nation. 
While he upheld the President whenever he felt he 
conscientiously could do so, particularly after the 
United States entered the war, he could not admire his 
tortuous policies. 

The War Period 185 

That these views were held by some who were closest 
to him, the letters of Walter Hines Page bear evidence. 
In one memorandum Page sums up his ideas on the sub- 
ject in these words: 

". . . The President began by refusing to under- 
stand the meaning of the war ... in the beginning 
he had made neutrality a positive quality of mind. . . . 
The second error he made was in thinking that he 
could play a great part as peacemaker. . . . He shut 
himself up with these two ideas and engaged in what 
he called 'thought/ The air currents of the world 
never ventilated his mind. This inactive position he 
has kept as long as public sentiment permitted. He 
seems no longer to regard himself nor to speak as a 
leader — only as the mouthpiece of public opinion after 
opinion has run over him. He is not a leader. . . . 
He has not breathed a spirit into the people: he has 
encouraged them to supineness." 

The following letter to Attorney General Gregory 
was written on the publication of a telegram sent by 
Hearst to his papers before we entered the war. This 
telegram charged Mr. Gregory with having forged 
the Zimmermann note and ordered his papers to attack 
him. Before the papers could make the attack, Zim- 
mermann admitted that he had written the German 
note to the German Ambassador to Mexico. The 
Hearst telegram was published with other German 
propaganda by a congressional committee in 19 18. 

186 A Memoir and Letters 

To Hon. T. W. Gregory, 
Attorney General of the United States, 
Washington, D. C. 

December 12, 1918. 

My dear Gregory: It was with deep sorrow that 
I read in the morning paper the very unflattering opin- 
ion of you expressed by our well-known American 
Patriot, William Randolph Hearst, upon the occasion 
of the publication of the Zimmermann message. I 
want to say that having known you, man and boy, for 
about thirty-five years, I am of the opinion that our 
friend Hearst has formed a wrong estimate of your 
character and particularly in the light of subsequent 
events. . . . 

Does not this whole matter as now revealed throw 
a strong and interesting light on the villainy of this 
traitor? If there is any just criticism to be made of 
the Administration of which you are a part, — far 
from being that which Mr. Hearst has made — I think 
it is that he and a number of others like him have 
not been shot. In fact, I am sincerely of the opinion 
that, although moved by humanity, our national ad- 
ministration has been guilty of a mistake in not more 
sternly bringing to justice gentlemen of this type. Is 
there not some way the American people can crush 
this viper although the war is over ? . . . 

I send you my best wishes and hope, now that the 
big strain is over and the country victorious, you are 
taking things a little easier and enjoying the conscious- 
ness of duty well performed, with some rest as well. 

The War Period 187 

With assurance of my deep and continued friendship, 

believe me, Yours, 

Lewis M. Dabney. 

To E. Y. Chapin. 

December 17, 1918. 

Dear Chapin: You asked some questions about 
business conditions in your last letter which I over- 
looked. Things seem in pretty good shape here. The 
oil strike in North Central Texas has brought in a 
flood of money. It is said $150,000,000 has been paid 
for leases. There is the biggest and best wheat crop 
ever in sight and the drought-stricken west is happy 
and hopeful again. The farmers are selling at high 
figures, the people have money to spend and are buying 
freely. . . . 

To my mind, the great problem is the enormous drain 
of war taxes which the present incompetent gang in 
Washington intends to perpetuate if not jolted loose. 
The same politicians who held this nation back from 
war till the surge of its manly wrath broke like a de- 
vouring flame, who benumbed the striking arm of a 
gallant nation, now, with war for excuse, are making 
a bold unblushing effort to seize all the great public 
agencies and perpetuate themselves in power by bribing 
enough voters with jobs. They preached to us truly 
that by owning and controlling all the avenues of em- 
ployment the Prussian War Lords had in fifty years 
reduced a whole people to a mechanized state-controlled 
mass. And now that we have chained up the Prussian 
Devil, they are trying to Prussianize us. I am as 

1 88 A Memoir and Letters 

ready to sacrifice my life to keep this country free 
from our own bureaucracy as from the chains of the 
Junkers. . . . 

If there were 250,000 German propagandists here 
in 1914, I estimate 500,000 now from Jane Addams 
to Wm. Randolph Hearst, all yowling and screaming 
that those harmless doves the Germans are about to 
be robbed and exploited by those imperialist thieves, 
our Allies. Hinc Illae Lachrymae! As ever yours, 


His sense of humor was his safety valve against 
despondency. His irony played on everything, not 
sparing himself. Like Dean Inge, of whom he was 
a great admirer, he thought that "emotionalism was 
an abortive faith and that every fanatical revival pro- 
duced a crop of insanity." In the following letter he 
pays his respects to Billy Sunday : 

To E. Y. Chapin. 

December 19, 1918. 

Dear Chapin: Your letter just received. It is 
always refreshing to hear from you. The "flu" is 
raging here as elsewhere and Stella has it, but a very 
mild case fortunately. She will get well right away 
I think, if she can be controlled — but you know women ! 

As the stores and movies here don't want to close 
till after Christmas, the City Fathers have decided 
that no quarantine is needed and are letting things run 
wide open. 

Billy Sunday is running his gospel mill to capacity 

The War Period 189 

in Fort Worth with a Dallas annex. Crowds every 
night drink in the words of this bounding mountebank, 
and disseminate germs and the odor of sanctity. He 
ought to save their souls because he is sending them 
across the Jordan in squads by the "flu" route, which 
ailment he is helping to scatter all over Texas. 

And by the way, Billy's heaven ought to be a nice 
roomy place considering the long list of his fellow 
worms he consigns to hell. All the Unitarians, Uni- 
versalists, Christian Scientists, so-called Atheists, and 
Deists in solido, and selected squads of all the rest 
of us. For red-hot intolerant fanaticism and all un- 
charitableness, there has been nothing like it since 
the good old days of Campbellite and Methodist "joint 
debate." However, it's a pleasant thing to the rabble 
to be assured by one who has a private wire to the 
Almighty that these "culchawed" Unitarians are all 
consigned to eternal punishment without benefit of 
clergy. When you see what the majority of people 
will eat up how can you believe in their capacity for 
self-government? I don't. . . . 

I hope you will all have a fine Christmas. Love to 


To George C. Fraser. 

December 21, 1918. 

My dear Fraser: Yours of the 17th in true 
Christmas spirit reached me to-day and I am answer- 
ing at once so that you may get this during the holi- 

190 A Memoir and Letters 

days, conveying as it does my best wishes to you and 
all your family. 

I am particularly glad to hear that George, who went 
so promptly to the front in such a manly way and in 
the most dangerous branch of the service (aviation), 
has been spared by Providence to you and to a useful 
and happy life. It is a glorious thing to make a sacri- 
fice of life for one's country, but a happy thing to 
parents to have a boy willing to do this and by God's 
mercy to be spared to them. . . . When I think of 
parents who lost their children, I hardly know what 
is my greatest feeling, — pity for them or thankfulness 
that I have been spared this sacrifice. . . . 

You ask about my boy. He was one of fourteen 
boys detailed about November 1 from Princeton to 
the Artillery Training Camp at Fortress Monroe. He 
and his friends from Princeton and all the other young 
fellows down there were bitterly disappointed at the 
end of the fighting. In fact, I think they had a general 
idea that the United States ought to continue the war 
for their benefit, — at least until they could get in and 
wind it up right. . . . We have advised him to stay 
there and finish the course and get his commission in 
the reserves. He says he sees no reason for staying 
except a stubborn desire not to give up anything he 
has put his hand to. A trait / would naturally say he 
inherited from his mother ! He will be sorry to have 
missed your kind invitation for Thanksgiving, but he 
was very possibly at that time peeling onions * in the 

x The duty of cadets which they called kitchen police. 

The War Period 191 

kitchen at Fortress Monroe, which no doubt was good 
for his soul. 

As to the future, I believe the people are getting 
roused to the villainy going on in Washington and that 
God, who in old Biblical times put foolishness into 
people's hearts in order that they might blow them- 
selves up, is still on the job and has stirred up Messrs. 

-, McAdoo and others to demonstrate so boldly 

and rashly the beauty of government ownership of 
everything that the whole gang are going to be thrown 

out. Mr. , particularly, is a useful agent in the 

hands of Providence. . . . Frankly, I do not see how 
it is possible to have good times or even normal times 
if the enormous drain of war taxes goes on. . . . No 
doubt the plan of the present crowd of lunatics in 
Washington is to compensate for the waste of enor- 
mous taxation by tremendously increasing public work. 
This cannot last long as the snake can't swallow itself 
by the tail route and get much nourishment. ... I 
know it is the opinion of democratic theorists that the 
entire bag of taxes being looted from the well-to-do 
does not cost the body politic anything — silliness be- 
yond expression. The thing should be managed as 
a man would his private business which has been 
through a big strain. He would not attempt to pay 
out all his working capital and junk his machinery 
within 30 to 90 days to pay back his debt, but would 
arrange for long time financing, development of his 
business, and reduction of expenses, so that he could 
get by. Why shouldn't a nation manage its affairs 
the same way? 

192 A Memoir and Letters 

But the boys in Washington have tasted blood and 
have been maddened by the taste like Bengal tigers. 
They have gotten their hands into the pockets of the 
American people and will simply have to be torn loose. 
They have tasted power and these numbskulls who 
have as a rule never demonstrated ability to manage 
a business bigger than a fruitstand, now propose to 
take hold of the entire business of the United States 
and to dictate the lives of all the inhabitants there- 
of. .. . 

However, I think their day is short. A friend just 
back from Washington told me that Uncle Joe Cannon 
has casually informed John Barton Payne, king of the 
railroads, that blue birds would be making their nests 
in the chairs of himself and his companions within 
twelve months. Let us trust that Uncle Joe, who knows 
a good deal about the plain American soul, is a true 
prophet. . . . With best wishes for a happy Christ- 
mas and New Year. Yours 



LETTERS 1919-1923 

With the close of the World War came an ava- 
lanche of theories. Old things had passed away ; and 
a new heaven and a new earth were vividly perceived 
by many who spoke and wrote. The age-old wisdom, 
born of untold centuries of human experience, was 
swept incontinently into the rubbish heap. But a few 
stubborn people still steered their course by the ancient 
lights. One of them was Kipling, whose poem, "The 
Gods of the Copy-Book Maxims," warning the im- 
petuous about to follow well-worn paths to folly once 
again, starts with these lines : 

"We were living in caves when They met us — They 
showed us each in turn 

That water would certainly wet us as fire would cer- 
tainly burn. 

But we found them lacking in uplift, vision and 
breadth of mind, 

So we left them to teach Gorillas and followed the 
march of mankind/' 

Mr. Dabney was another one who clung to the age- 
old wisdom and a copy of Kipling's poem sent to him 

by Mr. Chapin provoked this reply: 


194 A Memoir and Letters 

To E. Y. Chapin, 

... I was delighted to hear from you and the en- 
closed poem was an added treat. I am always pleased 
to hear my pet ideas, long cherished, so well expressed. 
For ten years or more I have been preaching to ears 
mostly deaf, that all the wisdom of creation is con- 
tained in Solomon's Proverbs, iEsop's Fables, and 
Poor Richard's Maxims so well expressed in the copy- 
books (that is the old ones). Wisdom begins and ends 
with them. Of learning there is, of course, no end. 
But without wisdom learning is simply a sharpened 
razor given to a baboon ; it equips him for destruction. 

To my mind the best proof of evolution is that 
ninety-five per cent of the human race are so ape-like 
in animal stupidity and in being attracted by glittering 
baubles. If they are shiny, seem new and alluring, 
they will continue to grab them no matter how many 
apes before them have scorched their fingers. Man's 
essential animalism is also demonstrated by the fact 
that he is lazy, greedy and lascivious, won't work if 
he can pilfer, has no foresight and precisely like any 
other ape believes that which he desires to believe. In 
some respects man, in his evolution, has not reached the 
stage of self-protective development of a gopher or 
a squirrel. 

These little animals, without exception, know that 
winter with its scarcity will return, and invariably 
store up nuts in the summer. Man with all his boasted 
reason, can be and is, convinced by any plausible 
fakir: (i) that winter will not return, (2) that if it 

Letters 19 19- 1923 195 

does it is not an operation of nature, but an outrage 
inflicted by several vaguely visualized monsters, i.e., 
government, capital, etc., (3) that saving is exploita- 
tion, (4) that he can reverse the procession of the 
equinoxes by voting, and it being demonstrated that 
male apes have never done so, then q. e. d. it follows 
that if female apes vote, results will surely be obtained. 

The proposition that man is an evoluted baboon 
would be established beyond peradventure of a doubt 
were it not for the fact that about five per cent of the 
race possess either altruism, virtue or wisdom. 1 Can 
we believe that these superior specimens are of a higher 
type and product of a more advanced evolution? 
Hardly, because there seems to be no stability or per- 
sistence of these superior types. We constantly see the 
baboon type bring into the world superior progeny, and 
the superior type produce baboon progeny, intellectual 
and otherwise. Perhaps there is a law working, too 
subtle for our perception, explaining this constant 
variation. Perhaps, in a rough way, the thing is 
settled by antecedent, pre-natal influence, strongly 
modified by environment and training. At any rate, 
we see that only a very few of our race have learned 
that fire will burn and act on the knowledge acquired, 
while the overwhelming majority are easily convinced 
in spite of experience that fire will not burn if the re- 
ceptacle is a new-fangled one. 

The trouble about a democracy is that things are 
settled by voting and ninety-five per cent of the voters, 

a The scientific observations deduced from army tests state that 60% 
are morons, 35% average and only 5% superior. 

196 A Memoir and Letters 

not having the sense of an ant or squirrel in the sum- 
mer, but having the vote, will ravage the stores of those 
who have laid up a few nuts when they could. Like 
any other maddened baboon they will tear the whole 
fabric of civilization to pieces. But after all the suf- 
fering, misery and perhaps bloodshed, when there are 
no more nuts to steal from others and when society 
has reduced itself again to savagery, as it has done a 
thousand times, it will again climb back through the 
old paths of labor and thrift. 

The history of man is like a merry-go-round. He 
starts and goes round in a circle and always comes back 
to where he started. He is under the delusion that he 
is moving but does not realize that he is moving in a 
circle. The stations are barbarism, toil, civilization, 
wealth, corruption, smash and begin all over again. 
Civilization after civilization more gorgeous, more in- 
tellectual, in some respects more advanced than ours, 
rises, flourishes, decays, yet we delude ourselves with 
the pleasing belief that for some inscrutable reason 
(the Christian cult, brotherhood of man, altruism etc.) 
the historic law won't apply to us. 

Well, the mills of the gods are grinding, and in 
spite of arguable drive], the "dancing mice'' are going 
to be ground into exceeding small bits. Let's hope that 
this time, at any rate, the provident and industrious 
won't be dragged down with them. . . . 

Wish you could see some of Lewis' work on the 
Tiger. He is now on the editorial board. He has 
also sold some things to the comic papers and is trying 

Letters 1919-1923 197 

more. I wish his efforts were more serious but they 
are quite clever. . . . 

To George C. Fraser. 

February 19, 1919. 

Dear Fraser: ... I hope you are right about 
things turning round somewhat but fear you are too 
optimistic. Here and there there are symptoms of 
return to sanity but not many. The truth is that the 
fountain-head and rallying-point of all this boiling 
nonsense is in the White House. ... As long as he is 
there and with the backing of a great political party, 
the cornerstones of our ancient liberties are in dan- 
ger. ... I can't see how times can improve — taxes 
are too high, stunning, crushing. How can business 
expand and employ labor with all our working capital 
confiscated? I know prosperous concerns here which 
have to borrow to pay income taxes. . . . 

Perhaps you have noticed the oil development down 
here. It is colossal to the point of staggering and 
bigger in product and magic development than the 
Klondike or the Rand. Locally it means prosperity 
and also much wild-cat speculation. It is making law 
practice active. Why not run down and take a look — 
you can see such a show but once ? Yours, 


This trip to the oil fields was taken by Mr. Dabney, 
Mr. Fraser and his son. In a hurried note of April 
23rd, Mr. Dabney refers to it: 

Leaving this afternoon for Boston and will be in 

xcj8 A Memoir and Letters 

New York almost certainly by Saturday May 3rd, 
when I hope to see you and Theodore (Price). Hope 
you and George had a pleasant trip back and found all 
well. I enjoyed the outing in the oil fields more than 
I can tell you. I trust neither of you developed any- 
thing — caught over there. They say there are two 
hundred and fifty cases of typhoid at Ranger now. I 
never saw a more propitious place for it. I hope when 
we meet we may pledge a modest horn to the declara- 
tion of Peace but I doubt it. By the way, the New 
York high-ball will get itself disliked if it continues 
to contain wood alcohol for its basic ingredient. . . . 

To Charles W. Dabney. 

February 20, 19 19. 

My dear Brother: We are in the midst of a tre- 
mendous oil excitement caused by the biggest strikes 
around Dallas yet made in the United States. It is 
unnecessary to say that I am not getting excited and 
not gambling, but there is a lot of gambling going on, 
wild-cat speculation and wild buying of oil stock by 
people who soon are going broke! However, it is a 
wonderful thing to see more wealth pouring out of the 
ground per annum from a few oil wells newly opened 
up near here, than all the gold mines of the United 
States, Alaska and the Philippines annually produce. 
Dallas is overcrowded with people and conditions here 
resemble a boom but I am keeping my feet on the 
ground and practising law. 

Speaking of gambling, I certainly hope the money 

Letters 19 19- 1923 199 

we put into our irrigation project on the Pecos will 
come back, each dollar leading another little dollar by 
the hand. But of course that was purely wild-cat 
speculation too. . . . 

Lewis is back at Princeton. He got his commission 
as Second Lieutenant of Artillery at Fortress Monroe 
which is creditable, I think, to a nineteen-year-old boy. 
Love to all the family, 


At this time Dallas was the center of the oil excite- 
ment and swarming with suddenly enriched " oilion- 
aires." They frequently rode into town, the men in 
riding breeches and the women with shawls over their 
heads, and emerged later dressed in Paris clothes and 
Paris hats which sat oddly enough over their tanned 
and sunburned faces. Diamonds were in great de- 
mand. The usual request was for "one about the size 
of a nickel." One lavish father in a burst of generosity 
bought two grand pianos for his home, one for each 
daughter. Spending their money like drunken sailors, 
the majority soon lapsed into the obscurity whence 
they came. 

To Charles W. Dabney. 

March 31, 19 19. 

Dear Charles : Yours received enclosing sketch of 
Richard Dabney. Where can I get his poems? If 
you can get a second-hand copy through a bookseller 
please buy it and send it to me. I think his life is 
pitiable. He was a man of great capacity and won- 

200 A Memoir and Letters 

derful culture, probably one of the ablest men of our 
name. What a shame that his life was so mutilated 
and destroyed — a broken vessel ! * 

. . . You must have had a splendid trip to Florida 
and I know how much you enjoyed it. My business 
takes me frequently in the winter to Corpus Christi and 
Southwest Texas which is a similar climate, and 
though I work, it is almost like a vacation to get out 
in the soft air, shoot a few ducks, and fish a little. 
Last winter when I was there at court, I would often 
go out in the afternoon after court adjourned, about 
four o'clock, and shoot ducks for an hour. The shoot- 
ing was wild, of course, without any blind and the 
ducks flying high, but I would get from eight to a 
dozen every time and brought home a quantity for 

I enjoy these outings more and more as I get older 
and I wish I could have been with you in Florida. 

Owing to the oil business, Dallas is in wonderful 
shape and money coming in from everywhere. Our 
law business is growing so all the time it keeps me 
hard and close at work. . . . 

To E. Y. Chapin. 

April 21, 1919. 

Dear Chapin: ... I am due in Boston on the 28th 
and think I will pass through Chattanooga Friday 
morning, spend the day with you, and leave Friday 
night. I enclose clipping about labor unions which 

1 Richard Dabney died about 1830. 

Letters 19 19-1923 201 

you will enjoy. However, don't get the idea that Con- 
gressman Blanton is a self-sacrificing patriot telling 
the truth though the heavens fall. He is one of the 
meanest demagogues in America which is saying quite 
a deal, but he happens to be from a rube district where 
there ain't no labor vote, and where the farmers are 
peculiarly exasperated by drought, hard times, rotten 
railroad service, and enormous taxes. Still if the devil 
told the truth it is the truth, and I am glad Blanton 
told it. I'm sick and tired of hearing how labor stuck 
and saved the country. They think because they for- 
bore actual rebellion, they are patriots of high order. 
They had to be bribed to do it — then struck for more 
bribes and had to be bribed again to stay bribed and 
with all that they worked just as little as they could. 
There are serious times ahead I fear. A labor leader 
here who has a little sense told a friend of mine that 
he didn't know what was before the country. "The 
boys," he said, "have all gone crazy — think there is no 
end to wages and more wages, and if they don't get 
what they want they are ready for anything!" He 
said it frightened him. 

The whole accumulated capital of this country is be- 
ing sucked off by a regular syphon system. Exorbitant 
wages, waste, high prices, bonds, taxes and the pro- 
ceeds going to wage earners again through government 
ownership and other devices. The blood is being 
pumped from the body politic so fast that the little 
bourgeois actually believes it's prosperity — like a man 
with a hole in the femoral artery admiring the fine 
circulation of the blood ! Its enough to make a "horse 

202 A Memoir and Letters 

laugh" and the angels weep but its grand times for 
the Union and Bureaucrats. They should worry and 
the little bourgeois is buying all the bonds and paying 
all the taxes to keep the vicious circle going round and 
round. . . . 

Mr. Dabney, with his strong belief in individual 
liberty of action was naturally opposed to the Eight- 
eenth Amendment to the Constitution. He considered 
it a revolutionary violation of the principles upon 
which our government rests: an invasion of the Bill 
of Rights, and bringing in its train lawlessness, hy- 
pocrisy, and conditions of immorality directly traceable 
to it. He believed in a government control of the 
liquor industry, in a sane temperance, not a fanatical 
prohibition. In the following letter he expresses his 
pleasure at escaping from the yoke. 

To E. Y. Chapin. 

March 22, 1920. 

Dear Chapin : I returned this morning from a trip 
to Houston, Galveston, San Antonio and El Paso. 
While it was a business trip, I enjoyed it as a rest and 
change. At El Paso I went across the river to Juarez 
and had the pleasure of putting my foot once more on 
a brass rail. Like Lord Clive in India, "when I con- 
sider my opportunity, I wonder at my forbearance." I 
hear that excursion tickets are now being issued to 
Juarez good for ten days, quite long enough for a quiet 
vacation, and I am told the day the regulation went 
into effect twenty-five thousand tickets were sold from 

Letters 19 19- 1923 203 

New York alone and the sound of the other multitudes 
on the way is as the "roaring of the sea agitated with 

waves. " 

To make the picture complete, I was told a local 
preacher is delivering a series of sermons on the 
iniquity seated across the Rio Grande, which the devil 
safely ensconced on the Mexican side receives with a 
cheerful grin. In my judgment, El Paso real estate 
is going up rapidly. There are a few choice sites for 
hotels still available close to the Bridge but they will 
soon be snapped up by enterprising bootleggers. 

The Mexicans aren't as bad as they are painted. 
From now on I shall ever have a word to say in their 
favor (geographically not ethnologically. ) . . . 

To E. Y. C ha pin. 

July, 1920. 

... I am just back from a week's sojourn in Browns- 
ville. I had some hard work but there were ameliora- 
tions. Matamoros is just a mile away and Santa Cruz 
just over the river. Santa Cruz consists of five saloons 
and a custom's station. Like ivory soap it's 99.99% 
pure. There are lots of little things about Matamoras 
I would like to introduce you to ; for instance, Avocado 
Salad, Mexican style, with Carta Blanca (poured from 
a bottle), and particularly Monsieur and Madame 
Darouzet of the Cafe Frangaise. Madame is "some 
cook," an angel of a cook. The French are, in my 
opinion, the most artistic and civilized people on earth ; 
and anyone who has partaken of one of Madame's 
Omelettes Bordelaise realizes it without argument. 

204 A Memoir and Letters 

When I consider the chasm between Madame at her 
charcoal oven, saucepan in hand, fat and whiskered 
like a grenadier though she be, and a Tennessee moun- 
taineer with a frying pan, I cannot believe them of 
the same species. These women of France with their 
burnished saucepans are the real men behind the guns, 
and account for the Frenchman's unquenchable gaiety 
and gallantry in love and war. Happy in his stomach, 
he fears not the devil, and the celebrated "foyer" for 
which he cheerfully lays down his life is located in 
the kitchen. The ornamental accomplishments of this 
gifted race may be exhibited in the Louvre, but their 
real achievements are at the oven. 

Vive La France ! Vive Madame Darouzet ! When 
I return to her Cafe may you be with me. 

Looking upon this gifted woman and drinking her 
health in her own excellent Vin Blanc, I said to myself 
with deep conviction "woman's place is in the home ! !" 
'Tis there she conquers by her soft feminine gifts and 
gently and benignly influences and civilizes the savage 
male. Civilization begins and ends in the kitchen! 

I met your old friends Hennesey, Martell, Johnny 
Walker and many others, and gave them your regards. 
Dear old friends in exile ! . . . . 

To George C. Fraser. Washington, D. C, 

October n, 1920. 

. . . I think I shall be in New York this week, 
probably the 14th, or 15th and if I make it I will surely 
drop in at your office and pay a short call. . . . 

I have been here for ten days trying to get a matter 

Letters 1919-1923 205 

disposed of in the Internal Revenue Department and 
their ways are trying. I wish / had the leisure of a 
bureaucrat. . . . 

This matter was finally settled after seven weeks 
which Mr. Dabney spent in Washington, with occa- 
sional trips to New York, to Princeton to see his son, 
and to Virginia to visit old and familiar scenes. 

To George C. Fraser. Princeton, N. J., 

October 24, 1920. 

... I wish you could have come down with me. You 
would have seen a great game. The team looks very 
promising to me, particularly well balanced and above 
all accurate. No fumbling at all and only one bad pass 
by center. They should have a great season. ... I 
found my boy happy, busy and well with a pleasant 
circle of congenial friends. He sends his regards. . . . 

I very much regret that I can't be with you Monday 
at lunch as I found a letter here calling me to Boston 
immediately. However, my consolation for missing a 
pleasant hour with you is that I had the pleasure of a 
good long symposium Friday evening. Permit me also 
to present my fervent acknowledgment of the good old 
family remedy for catarrh which has indeed proven 
a benediction and a blessing "with healing in its 

My return to New York is uncertain but when I do 
return I promise myself the pleasure of seeing you if 
only for a few minutes. Yours, 


206 A Memoir and Letters 

In the next letter reference is made to his daughter's 
approaching marriage to Mr. John Hopkinson Baker, 
of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

To E. Y. Chapin. 

February 7, 1921. 

Dear Chapin : I received and highly appreciate your 
letter of good wishes for Elizabeth. ... I hate to 
lose her but am glad that the aimless life of a society 
girl now comes to an end and she sets about the busi- 
ness of living. Elizabeth, fortunately, though she 
went into it with great zest, was getting very tired of 
it. ... I thank God for one thing, — she is marrying 
a man clean through, of good family and character and 
with good prospects. . . . Naturally we are loaded to 
the guards with getting ready for a church wedding 
with all the attendant frills. Personally it seems to 
me folly but women will have it so. I suppose it is an 
atavistic instinct inherited from their foremothers to 
make of the capture of a man a stately, solemn and 
pompous ceremonial. Perhaps that's why a bride- 
groom always looks like he does, because he knows he 
is being dragged publicly at the chariot wheels to adorn 
a feminist triumph. Don't quote my opinions to any- 
body. To a woman this is blasphemy. . . . 

. . . We are having some unemployment here — 
wholesome I think. It's getting so you can get a negro 
wench to do an hour's work if you fetch and carry her 
back and forth in a limousine. We have open shop 
here and it works like a charm. Try it. . . . The 
question of railroad wages remains to be settled and 

Letters 1919-1923 207 

settled now. Two of Wilson's Federal Labor Board 
go out in April and I have a tip that they will be re- 
placed by very different men. . . . 

The following extracts are from letters written to 
his daughter after her marriage and removal to New 
York City. 

To Mrs. John Hopkinson Baker. 

May 22, 192 1. 

Darling Child: . . . Your mother, not to be re- 
strained any longer, is on her way to see you via 
Cincinnati where she arrived safely and is having a 
pleasant visit. By now I suppose she is in Washing- 
ton in the lofty society of the Colonial Dames, 1 and 
will soon be with you. Your mother has gained about 
fifteen pounds since the wasting care of you was lifted 
from her shoulders ! She has developed a devastating 
appetite and makes away with sebaceous and farin- 
aceous foods in a way awful to see. Cream is her 
especial temptation. Take it from her! I tell her 
that if there were a prohibition on cream she would 
be associating with lawless cows and bootlegging it. 
You will have to supervise her calories as you did mine 
and remove deleterious substances from her plate. 

I hope you will enjoy your visit together. You and 
she ought to go down to Princeton for Lewis' gradua- 
tion. Lewis says he has taken a house and you and 
your mother should see that he is fixed to enter- 

1 The biennial meeting of the Colonial Dames. 

2o8 A Memoir and Letters 

tain his friends. I may not be able to come on but 
hope to. . . .* 

November 24, 192 1. 

My dearest Child: This is Thanksgiving Day 
which we shall observe with thanksgiving for our three 
fine children and regret that we haven't them with 
us. . . . 

Your mother and I went to the Idlewild Ball last 
night, the 32nd which I have attended. The debutantes, 
of course, were a glittering show. We were thinking 
of you and wishing we could see you dancing around 
as formerly, the gayest of the gay, but when we saw 
girls of a ripe vintage, like old soldiers bravely going 
over the top for the tenth time, we agreed that all 
was for the best. The butterfly time in a girl's life 
is only an episode, the serious business of life and real 
happiness begins with marriage. 

It's a great game, if you can hold out, and a great 
partnership if you stick it out to the end. There is 
more fun in building up together than in having things 
ready made. It is the Great Adventure of Life. You 
will love each other and be happy while you work and 
hope together. It is more often success that tries and 
strains the fabric. Do you remember Barrie's one act 
play "The Will"? It's true. 

Try to be as much like your mother as you can. She 
is one of whom the Wise King said "Her price is above 
rubies. Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her 

1 Mr. Dabney joined his family at Princeton and was present at his 
son's graduation. 

Letters 1919-1923 209 

husband honoreth her." That is a woman's crown of 
glory. . . . Your devoted 


December 20, 1921. 

My dearest Daughter: Herewith is cheque for 
your Christmas cheer. . . . 

My receipt for egg-nog is something like the old 
nigger's — take a pinch o' dis and a pinch o' dat, then 
add all the whiskey you have in the house," dust a 
little nutmeg on top, consume slowly, give three cheers 
for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy and make 
your Yankee husband join in. Thus, with the accom- 
paniment of Dixie on the Victrola, the ritual is accom- 
plished. I have seen strong men mowed down by this 
receipt and I recommend it. You can drink our healths 
also at the same time, as we will be drinking yours and 
wishing you and John a very happy Christmas. . . . 

March 17, 1922. 

Dearest Child: . . . John's account of the family 
gathering and debate of current topics is amusing but 
debate is not the word — the Dabneys never debate. 

Now that John has been in the family a year, you 
might open the door and show him the family skeleton. 
Which is, that the Dabneys are crazy in various and 
varying degrees, but the usual manifestation is a high 
voltage, about 50,000 kilowatts, of conversational mon- 
ologue only to be interrupted successfully by the appli- 
cation of a club. Some of us are polite and lady-like 

210 A Memoir and Letters 

with a line of ultra uplift and mellifluous bunk — some 
of us are scornful and arrogant, though basically right 
about the boiling rot that is travelling around the 
country in the guise of sweetness and light. 

We do not debate our differences of opinion, for 
debate implies a statement and rejoinder. If we can- 
not hold the floor in a monologue, we talk at the same 
time and the one with the best lung power is heard 
but not heeded. About ten minutes of it might be 
superlatively funny and taken at infrequent intervals 
we are an amusing tribe if you have a sense of humor. 
But I would say that to the average person we would 
be an acquired taste — like snails. 

What does John think about it? 

Your devoted Father. ; 

To Charles W. Dabney. 

November, 1921. 

Dear Charles : Prospects for next year seem to be 
good both here and generally, and this is a good time to 
realize on Liberty Bonds. They are up now and the 
wise ones are unloading them. Just as sure as you 
and I live, before the next election Congress is going 
to pass the Soldier Bonus Bill which will load the Gov- 
ernment with three billion more debt and Liberty 
Bonds will slump. 

What about the kaolin ? Find what freight is going 
to be and what we can get for the product in Ohio 
and New Jersey. Of course manufacturers will want 
no tariff on raw materials, and high tariff on products 
but we will meet them at Phillipi and perhaps get our 

Letters 1919-1923 211 

share of the spoils. Like three-fingered Pete we are 
doing our darndest, angels can do no more. ''Patience 
and shuffle the cards," as we say in Texas. . . . 

To S. B. Dabney. 

December, 1921. 

Dear Sam : Lewis Jr. goes back to the Harvard Law 
School to-night after spending his Christmas vacation 
with us. He is delighted with his work and taking 
hold eagerly. He says they were setting a very fast 
pace at the Law School. That of the thirteen law 
professors at least nine are wonderful big men and 
their intellectuality is an inspiration. Your friend, 
Dean Pound, is at present abroad and Professor War- 
ren is acting Dean. He told the class at the opening 
of the term that twenty-five per cent would not be 
back next year as the Law School was committed to 
the Open Door — "Open to come in, Gentlemen, and 
open to go out." 

It takes a long stretch these days to make a lawyer 
and shall be glad when my boy is through and here with 
me. I want to live to start him in life. . . . 

Mr. Dabney was a charter member of the Critic 
Club of Dallas which was organized in 1909 by C. 
Lombardi. Its purpose was to bring together men of 
different interests and different points of view, for 
the discussion of public questions. Of the papers de- 
livered by Mr. Dabney before this club all but two 
have unfortunately been lost. The subjects discussed 


A Memoir and Letters 

by him however and the dates of the addresses are 
given below : 

March 29, 1909 

December 26, 19 10 

November 25, 19 12 

November 25, 19 13 
February 29, 19 16 

December 31, 191 7 

January 24, 1921 
December 4, 1922 

"The Past and Present of the Com- 
mission Form of Government in 
Texas and Its Future Possibil- 

"The Past and Present of the Com- 
mission Form of Government in 
Texas and Its Future Possibil- 
ities. " (continued) 

"Political Progress — But in What 
Direction ?" 

"Texas and the Corporations." 

"Some Economic Features of the 
Homestead Exemption." 

"Homes for the Masses, — an After- 
War Problem." 

"The New Tyranny." 

"Is Civilization Returning to Bar- 
barism ?" 

The address delivered in 192 1 on the subject of the 
Labor Unions entitled "The New Tyranny" will be 
found in the Appendix. 

Mr. Dabney was strongly opposed to unrestricted 
immigration. After the war when the tide of immi- 
grants poured in from Southern and Eastern Europe 
in ever-increasing numbers, he spoke and threw his 
influence for restricted immigration upholding the 
ideals of race integrity and Anglo-Saxon institutions. 
He believed, however, that the immigration question 
was only one of the dangers of modern complex civil- 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 213 

ization and that the sciences of Biology, of Ethnology 
and of Eugenics pointed out other alarming tendencies. 
The following address was delivered before the Critic 
Club in December, 1922, and by request was repeated 
in part before other audiences : 


The limits of this paper forbid elaboration, reference 
to sources of authority, and extensive reasoning in support 
of the propositions advanced. The writer proposes only 
to indicate a peril and arouse interest, hoping thereby to 
provoke detailed examination. The subject is worthy of 
grave consideration. The science of biology and ethnology 
have practically come into being during the last fifty years 
and a multitude of investigators have collected and classi- 
fied data, and demonstrated certain principles. 

If we do not wish our own civilization to suffer the 
blight, decay and relapse into barbarism which has over- 
taken numerous fruitful and brilliant civilizations, rising 
from primitive conditions, followed by vigorous youth, 
adolescence, splendid culture, decline and death, we must 
consider whether cycles of national life and decay repeat- 
ing themselves in world history are inevitable results of 
conditions under which we exist, or are governed by some 
law which, if understood, may be modified or counter- 

Science, and particularly bacteriology, has enabled us to 
extirpate certain diseases and to abate the ravages of others. 
Should we not ascertain whether the Black Death which 
has heretofore infected and destroyed civilizations may not 
be investigated, its causes determined, and remedies ap- 
plied? If the ills of individuals, believed in the past to 
be the inevitable results of Almighty Will, are both curable 

214 A Memoir and Letters 

and preventable, shall we treat national disease as decreed 
by God and without remedy? 

Civilization is both recent, complex, and fragile. The 
race has struggled up from savagery during several hun- 
dred thousand years, and in that time basic traits of man- 
kind have come to be fixed like granite. At the bottom, 
therefore, man is controlled by primitive, long settled and 
barbaric tendencies, while his civilized habits, modes of 
thought and living, began to be established with the dawn 
of civilization and history, not more than eight thousand 
years ago. These, therefore, are less stable, as biological 
laws of man's being, and constantly tend to subversion by 
the "bete humaine^ in all of us, less in the highly, more 
in the less highly, civilized members of the race. Civiliza- 
tion, therefore, is recent and unstable, tending constantly 
to reversion to primitive, long-established habits of barba- 
rism, and to the overturn of its precariously balanced 

This is the law of atavistic revolt. The inhibitions of 
recently acquired civilizations are weak, the urge of primi- 
tive barbarism is strong. Whether all races were originally 
of one origin need not be considered. Since the dawn of 
history various races have been different. In the long 
journey from savagery some have not developed the capac- 
ity to even advance to barbarism, for instance the Aus- 
tralian Black Man or African Hottentot. Others have 
stopped with barbarism, as the American Indian and many 
Asiatic tribes. Biologically these never had innate racial 
capacity to progress further, and being incapable of a 
higher mode of life, have never desired it, indeed react 
violently against civilization and wither and die upon con- 
tact with it. Other races, for instance the Mongrel in- 
habitants of Central and South America, having reached 
a low civilization, are incapable of going forward, and 
under internal or external pressure tend to disintegrating 
explosion. Such races being inherently incapable of ad- 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 215 

vance, and the burden of civilization too heavy for their 
capacities, will never assume or tolerate it. 

But even in those races capable of civilization of a 
high type, not all the members are of the came capacity. 
As between races, so among individuals, the law of nature 
is not equality, but inequality. Experience and history 
both teach that even in superior races great ability, called 
genius, is extremely rare and high capacity the exception. 
The Greeks, most gifted of human races, produced few 
Platos or Aristotles, few poets like Homer, few great 
dramatists, artists or law-givers. Not one per cent of the 
finest of races have possessed genius or even great capac- 
ity, the remainder grade downward through mediocrity to 
stupidity, and under this a mass of those who have no 
capacity for civilization, bear it with difficulty and resent- 
ment, and revolt against it when its sanctions are relaxed 
and opportunity offers. These constitute a large pro- 
portion of even fine races, and represent that element never 
thoroughly civilized, incapable of it, and who remain bar- 
barians, snarling at its burdens, and biting at their chains. 

Always it is the few supremely talented and capable 
members of a race who carry it forward, discover, teach, 
conquer, give laws, perfect art and science, and make those 
applications of science and law to living which render it 
safe, sanitary and comfortable. The mediocre man accepts 
the work of genius, and performs the interminable and 
complex tasks necessary to construction and preservation of 
what the superior man devises. The middle classes realize 
the benefits and comforts of civilization and are willing to 
work to perpetuate it, and to support its institutions; 
beneath is ever the barbarian, congenitally incapable, work- 
ing as little as possible under compulsion, resentful of the 
burdens of civilization, and rebellious to its laws. Civiliza- 
tion, therefore, had its rise and is perpetuated by the con- 
ceptions of the superior man, the torch bearer of the race, 
and is supported by the assent of the middle man and his 

216 A Memoir and Letters 

recognition of its benefits, abhorred by the under man, the 
congenital savage, incapable of civilization, hating it, and 
desirous of reverting to the primitive, under the unchange- 
able biological law of his being. 

It is therefore the slender line of high capacity, backed 
by a sufficient middle class, convinced of its benefits, which 
causes the civilization of a race and maintains it. If these 
classes become too reduced in number to conceive and exe- 
cute what is necessary, the delicate balance is displaced, 
the savage residuum rises, destroys violently, or other- 
wise ruins, the institutions it hates, often extirpates the 
remnant of the classes it deems oppressors and taskmasters, 
and the state goes the way to barbarism of Egypt and 
Babylon, Tyre, Greece and Carthage, the conquering Em- 
pire of Rome, the law-giver of the ancient world, the 
polished and resplendent Empire of the Saracen. The glory 
of the Aryan and the Semite all have perished. Nor have 
civilizations often been destroyed by external conquest. 
The causes of decay have been within, and neither Athens 
fell before Philip, nor Rome before the Goths, until genius 
was dead and valor and patriotism extinguished. 

Research during the last fifty years has done much to 
illuminate the subject. The causes are found in three de- 
structive tendencies : 

( i ) The tendency to structural overloading. 

(2) The tendency to biological retrogression. 

(3) The tendency to atavistic revolt. The last we have 
briefly considered. 

(1) As compared to barbarism, civilization is increas- 
ingly complex. New discoveries give rise to new wants, 
new needs, and scientific progress creates new activities. 
Culture creates new tastes which must be gratified, and 
commerce, manufactures, and infinitely specialized industry 
call for higher and more burdensome education of hand 
and brain. Formerly education in any learned profession 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 217 

was a matter of months, now it is a matter of years, 
and many of them, and of vastly increased effort and ex- 
pense. The desires and activities of civilized society, in- 
creasing pari passu with its advance, place a heavier and 
heavier strain upon the brain that devises and the hand 
which executes. Complexity of function requires ever-in- 
creasing exertion. The barbarian, the underman, as we 
may call him, finds the effort to sustain the burden of ex- 
isting in such a society more and more irksome. Loath- 
ing sustained effort and congenitally incapable of either 
appreciating or securing its rewards, he observes that its 
prizes are not for him, that his only portion in such a 
society is increasing toil, without any appreciable chance 
of rising, and that his savage appetites and lusts are re- 
strained by laws which he hates. For this reason he desires 
to be rid of the bonds which chafe him and dreams of a 
state in which each man shall live untrammeled by law 
or ordered civilization, in a pure state of nature (anarchy). 
Or, like the Red communists, believes that if society could 
be rid of all its superior elements, of all restraints of re- 
ligion, ties of family and rights of property, men would 
return to a state of nature in which all would live as 
brothers, and by wiping out all complexities, even art, 
culture and science, a peaceful Arcadia of easy living would 
be attained. Again the strain of a more and more complex 
and specialized society bears with increasing weight upon 
the superior men, who must carry on its activities, and if 
less of these are born instead of more, and at the same 
time the undermen become preponderant either by birth 
or immigration, the social structure cracks and gives way, 
the underman rises and smashes that civilization which 
he can never restore, often practically extirpating those of 
superior mentality. 

The underman has his prophets and philosophers^ 
usually cracked geniuses, borderland wits, or pure maniacs. 
Accordingly before the upheaval in Russia we see Tolstoi 

218 A Memoir and Letters 

preaching his gospel of simplicity and brotherhood, living 
as a peasant, and going without shoes. Before the French 
Revolution Rousseau pictured an imaginary state of nature 
in which mankind, having entirely rid itself of the rights 
of property and the restraints of civilization, would live in 
ideal and perfect brotherhood. Or we have a homicidal 
maniac like Babeuf, to whom the Bolshevists have of late 
erected a statue, yelling that all superior individuals must 
be slaughtered, all art, science, religion, and morality wiped 
out, and all restraints of law destroyed. These proponents 
of the philosophy of the underman abound in the univer- 
sities of all nations, speak, write, and get a hearing, and 
are a menace to society, for though half-wits, many of 
them possess talent, and themselves incapable of succeed- 
ing in ordered society, hate it with venomous hatred as 
a thing which stands in the way of the extreme exploitation 
of their egos, for they are almost to a man dangerous para- 
noiacs. Thus, when through the reduction of talent in 
society structural overloading has occurred beyond the 
breaking point, the underman has his leaders ready to his 

However, the state which he attains by murder and de- 
struction is a state of nature indeed, but such as wild beasts 
exist in by force of tooth and claw, suffering the depriva- 
tion of everything which makes life tolerable, and finding 
his state of nature a state of hunger, hardship and suffering. 

The phrase "structural overloading" is then no more 
than the axiom that the complexities and burdens of a high 
civilization tend to increase without increased capacity to 
sustain them. Then comes the explosion. 

Modern civilization is the conception and product of 
superior men. As society has advanced from the primitive 
to semi-civilized, and up to its present organization its 
functioning has been biologically adverse to the best strains 
and favorable to the worst. 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 219 

In primitive society the physically strong and mentally 
alert and aggressive gained and held leadership and chose 
superior specimens as wives. Influence and power was 
derived from large families and vigorous and warlike sons. 
The best specimens were the most prolific. Also they re- 
tained for themselves the larger part of real and personal 
property of the tribe, lived in freedom from hard manual 
toil, and more liberally and hygienically, which again tended 
to a greater survival of children. 

The lower breeds, however, in primitive and feudal so- 
ciety lived under extremely adverse conditions of menial 
labor, exposure to unhygienic surroundings, famine and 
disease. During the Dark and Middle Ages epidemics of 
plague and smallpox swept Europe repeatedly. The lower 
classes suffered most from these visitations and perished 
in masses. 

The youth of civilization was, therefore, highly favor- 
able to increase of the best strains, and particularly as 
power was in the hands of the upper classes the burdens 
of government and taxation were adjusted so as to press 
lightly upon them and permit easy and ample existence. 

The progress of civilization changed all these things and 
with it came steam, electricity, and finally the extension 
of democratic institutions and transfer of power from the 
eugenically best to the eugenically worst. But before en- 
tering upon this cycle, unfavorable conditions had already 
operated against the increase of the superior breeds. The 
conditions existing in the Dark and Middle ages caused 
a very large proportion of the choicest men and women 
to enter the priesthood or the cloister. These left no de- 
scendants. Wars, then as now, were fatal to the superior 
type. Invariably they were the leaders in battle and were 
decimated. The hundred years' war between England and 
France, that of the Roses, the religious war, the Thirty 
Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars, the late World War, 
all have been fatal to the superior man, who on the in- 

220 A Memoir and Letters 

stant responded to the ancestral urge within him, went 
forth to battle, and fell, while the mediocrities and dregs 
of the population remained at home to breed. Ever, war 
has been the enemy of good blood. The Peloponnesian Wars 
of Greece, followed by the Asiatic adventure of Alexander, 
extirpated the Hellenic race, leaving as the occupiers of 
their soil mongrel Levantines, descendants of slaves and 
helots, who have inherited the Hellenic language without 
Hellenic genius. The nation of degenerate shoe-blacks just 
kicked out of Asia Minor are not the descendants of the 
men of Thermopylae. 

The last 150 years have been adverse to the reproduc- 
tion of superior strains. The upper man requires a high 
standard of living. Culture and comfort, education for 
his children, reasonable leisure and travel he deems nec- 
essaries, and he must live in accordance with his station. 
The complexity of modern society, as we have seen, places 
on him wearying tasks and structural overloading tends 
to crush him. Therefore, in the families which should 
have children there are few. The superior man will not 
bring them into being in numbers so great that he cannot 
provide for them. Democratic institutions have placed 
upon the upperman increasing burdens. Its sudden and 
violent shifts of policy and politics have made it more 
and more difficult to carry on business, and add to the 
cares of an existence already burdensome in its complexities, 
and the underman taxes him and harasses his operations 
in the most stupid and oppressive manner. The voice of 
democracy is ever to tax and harass the most capable, and 
functions through demagogues who are, so to speak, mere 
echoes. The superior man exerts himself and secures a 
profit; it is taxed, he works harder, and is surtaxed. He 
pays taxes on all his property, his savings, his life in- 
surance, his land, his personal property, his money, his 
income, franchise taxes, corporation taxes, taxes on his 
right to work, taxes on the product of his work. His 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 221 

ability to work is handicapped in a thousand ways and 
by a thousand restrictions, and in many ways the profits 
of his labor are limited by law, and still the yell comes 
from the under masses that more burdens must be heaped 
upon him. To prevent his children from sinking in the 
social scale he will have few, and as his burdens increase 
his family diminishes. Democracy therefore is disgenic, 
tending to restrict the reproduction of the best strains, and 
to promote large families among the unfit. The race, 
gradually milked of its best blood at the top, while it 
reproduces the worst at the bottom, becomes increasingly 
incapable, leveling tends to accelerate the descent to lower 

Flinders Petrie, historian and Egyptologist, summarizes 
this in his statement that "democracy is the last illness of 

Modern and Christian philanthropy is a noble thing, and 
peculiarly so, for it involves the virtue of self-abnegation 
to the extreme, in that its exercise places more burdens 
on the better man, but operates against his survival. Free 
schools, sanitariums, hospitals, clinics, social service, and 
the like burden him financially. All these institutions, in 
so far as they provide for the underman and his children 
a more favorable environment, reduce their mortality and 
increase the number of survivors. Thus the superior man 
is obeying the laws of religion and philanthropy in direct 
opposition to the law of self-preservation. A further dis- 
genic influence is revolution. These, as in France and 
Russia, have their foundations laid by idealogues and 
half-baked philanthropists, unbalanced theorists and mis- 
guided superiors, who control its beginnings and set in 
motion explosive forces with the best intentions. When 
murderous passions are unloosed they seek to stay the 
tempest; at once the underman turns with a snarl, and 
rends them, a Kerensky flees for his life, the Girondists 
go to the scaffold. Then the human barbarian has his way ; 

222 A Memoir and Letters 

with crude logic he reasons that his superiors caused this 
civilization so oppressive and hateful to him; that if he 
can extinguish this class he will be free of it. Thus revolu- 
tions are often accompanied by practical extinguishment 
of the best blood, and when the human barbarian has 
utterly destroyed and ruined what ne can neither create 
nor operate, and of necessity what is left of society recon- 
stitutes itself, it is with vastly diminished treasures of 
capacity and energy, and on a basis permanently lower. 
Revolutions of this kind, though they destroy much wrong, 
are fearful in their results. Reforms may be achieved 
otherwise than by violence, but good blood once drained 
away can never be restored. 

What is good blood, and what is the superior man as 
the term is used in this paper? Not an hereditary aristoc- 
racy nor an iron bound caste locked against the ordinary 
man. Those born in either the lowest or highest class, 
who inherit capacity, are the best. True, whatever their 
origin, they will rise and become members of what are called 
the upper classes and establish their children therein, for 
capacity and energy are usually rewarded by prosperity. 
Hence by perpetual recruitment from below the upper ranks 
of society are refreshed with new good blood. By this 
process of coming up of the best breeds a society, justly 
organized, which raises no bars against merit, is con- 
stantly recruited and strengthened. This is called the 
"Social Ladder." Apparently its operations should be 
eugenic, really they are disgenic, for the new man who rises 
to the higher class adopts its viewpoint and customs and 
shares its burdens. Therefore, he tends to reduce his fam- 
ily. Thus the stock of superiors is actually diminished 
by the operation of the "social ladder," and as modern 
society has cleared it of obstacles, so have the superiors 
left and impoverished the lower strata and in increasing 
numbers entered the higher, and ceased to reproduce, and 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 223 

thereby impoverished both top and bottom of society. 
Society is possessed of a limited quantity of good blood; 
as the way is made smoother more and more rise, less and 
less are left to rise, the good stock is exhausted at the 
bottom and perishes by birth limitation at the top. Statis- 
tics taken from England show that fifty years ago four- 
teen per cent of those born below rose through the social 
ladder; now but five per cent rise by it. And this in the 
very period when democratic constitutions have removed 
obstacles to rising. 

Penal and reformatory institutions are adverse to the 
perpetuation of the balance in favor of good breeds. All 
sorts of institutions flourish at the expense of the superior 
man. Texas may reserve $10.00 per capita per annum for 
the education of its boys and girls fit to become fathers 
and mothers of good citizens, but let the son of the con- 
genially unfit become a thief, or his daughter a prostitute, 
then this State will spare no expense to place these human 
derelicts in a reformatory and at the cost of many hun- 
dreds per annum educate and restore them to society to 
become the parents of swarming generations of thieves, 
prostitutes and barbarians, who in turn must be reformed. 

Thus also operates modern penology, whose object is 
to restore the unfit to society, free and encouraged to breed, 
and thus operate asylums for the insane, institutions for 
half-wits, idiots and defectives, and schools for the back- 
ward. It is as if one fertilized, watered and cultivated the 
noxious weeds of the garden, while he sowed the roses 
with salt. In the breeding either of animals or plants the 
most ignorant cultivator knows that he must encourage 
and preserve the best specimens and extirpate the worst. 
There is no cattle breeder so foolish as to permit a runt 
or scrub to break into his pasture and breed with his cows. 
In Texas the portion of that scrub would be death or 
sterilization. Zoology has established as a commonplace 
that heredity inexorably fixes the type, good comes of 

224 A Memoir and Letters 

good and bad of bad, and everyone acts upon these things 
as indisputable. But man, the noblest of animals, is treated 
as an exception to these laws, and modern democratic so- 
ciety is based upon the fallacy that man is immune from 
the law which governs every other species. Hence the 
lowest strains are nursed and preserved, the better dis- 
criminated against and gradually extinguished. So we 
will see thousands expended to return lunatics, criminals, 
and degenerates to society, there to perpetuate their kind, 
while superiors are taxed, burdened and discriminated 

Immigration has been adverse to the social balance. In 
the United States, until the eighties, on the whole, popu- 
lation was recruited from eugenically good specimens of 
North and Central Europeans. These were reproducing rap- 
idly under circumstances favorable to the production of large 
families, and had the doors then been closed to promiscuous 
immigration, the rate of increase then prevailing would 
have given us a population eugenically good, as large as 
the product of the melting pot. Had this been done, the 
United States, with its peculiarly good stock, would have 
been the dominant race in every way. Its supremacy would 
have been fixed. But this was not to be. Well meaning 
idealists and exploiters of labor joined hands and America 
became the human sewage disposal plant of the Universe, 
for what was preponderantly admitted, nay encouraged to 
come, was not the superior individuals of the various races, 
but the worst — mongrelized Asiatics, Greeks, Levantines, 
Southern Italians, and sweepings of the Balkans, of Poland 
and of Russia. Not all immigration was bad ; though 
wrongly recruited, much was good and they and their 
progeny have been valuable elements. But most was bad. 
Human helots brought here to toil, the dregs of impoverished 
or mongrel races, their presence has added to the pressure of 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 225 

the native barbarian masses, and their growing preponder- 
ance over the superior elements. 

No one who has eyes can blind himself to the conse- 
quences of this fatal error. It is by no means a question 
of the exclusion of a particular race, all races have their 
superiors and dregs. Speculations as to the superiority 
of Nordic, Mediterranean, and Alpine, one over the other, 
are of doubtful value, although each race has qualities in 
which it excels. But our immigration should have been 
selective and primarily for our own benefit. As it is we 
have opened the floodgates, have possibly ruined our pos- 
terity, but have not benefited the barbarians we have ad- 
mitted. They proclaim almost as one man that the insti- 
tutions of their new home are unbearable and must be 
destroyed, and surely if the imported barbarian joined with 
our own too numerous product, shall destroy our civiliza- 
tion, quenching its light in blood and ashes, the result can- 
not be happy, either for us, or for them. 

Our silly altruism in attempting to civilize the unciv- 
ilizable, at the cost of our own extirpation, will not even 
be rewarded with success. 

The Remedy. 

If we are correct in our conclusion that the perpetua- 
tion of civilization depends upon the existence of a suffi- 
cient number of superior individuals, that the operation of 
civilization is unfavorable to the reproduction of superiors, 
that from the various causes instanced superior elements 
are lessening, inferior increasing, it follows that in time our 
society will become degraded and our institutions perish. 
The signs that this degradation is progressing are all 
around us. In morals, politics, nervous stability, industry, 
patriotism, and respect for law there is a distinct falling off. 

Max Nordau, a generation ago, painted a vivid picture 
of degeneracy in progress. Compare it to-day with condi- 

226 A Memoir and Letters 

tions in our own land; is not the picture true? Are 
there no remedies for the progressive evil? Two are 
put forward. The first is, that, men can be improved 
in the mass by environment, that given universal edu- 
cation, good living conditions, the application of the 
various branches of social service, hygiene, preventive 
medicine, and the like, environment may be so im- 
proved as to produce a better race, one which will be 
equal to the demands of civilization, and safe for de- 
mocracy. The basis of this theory is the eighteenth cen- 
tury teachings of Locke and Hume, and of the French 
philosophers, that all human beings are born equal in 
capacity, their brains clean slates on which anything may 
be written, and that the individual will be superior or in- 
ferior as his environment is. These theories made a pro- 
found impression upon the liberals of the 18th century and 
were reflected in our Declaration of Independence and that 
of French Revolutionists. These ideas to-day live and govern 
in Democratic States, and in the language of Jefferson "We 
hold it to be self-evident that all men are born free and 

In the 19th century this doctrine was reinforced by 
the Frenchman Lamarck, who declared that "acquired char- 
acteristics could be transmitted"; that is to say, qualities 
acquired through education and environment became fixed 
and passed by heredity. If it be true that the breed can 
be raised to higher capacity by improvement of environ- 
ment, education, etc., then the remedy is here whereby 
the social balance may be restored and biological retrogres- 
sion halted, and no effort should be spared in education 
and social uplift, no burden of taxation could be too heavy 
which would thus save the nation. As these theories are 
almost universally believed to be gospel truths, we have 
put our faith in education and environmental uplift, and the 
more we fail to get the results, the more earnestly we 
strive, taxes increase and money is poured out like water. 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 227 

Still after 50 years of the little red school house have con- 
ditions improved, or the contrary? Does the nation show 
more or less intelligence? Has it advanced in morals, art, 
refinement of taste, literature, political capacity? Is it more 
governed by reason, or by prejudice and impulse? Is it 
more moved by reflection or by propaganda? Has sexual 
morality improved or deteriorated? Is religion more or 
less a governing force? Has the administration of justice 
advanced or deteriorated? Is there more or less crime? 
Has the general character and quality of public servants 
improved or deteriorated? Is individual moral responsi- 
bility for conduct more or less a governing force? Are we 
more stable, or neurotic? Are we producing more or less 
high capacity? Are the standards of public servants, 
politics* and politicians higher or lower? 

I fear many of these questions cannot be answered in 
the affirmative. Environmentalist theories of social better- 
ment, uplift of the individual, and transmission of acquired 
characteristics were practically unquestioned until the latter 
half of the nineteenth century, so much so that J. S. Mill ex- 
pressed his scorn of those who believed otherwise. 

The science of biology, later aided by psychology, how- 
ever, has brought forward facts which have shaken the 
very foundations of the theory of improvement by environ- 
ment, and with it have brought into serious doubt the 
popular gospels which are the corner stones of democracy. 
Common observation demonstrates the fact that in beasts, 
fowls and vegetables character is determined by heredity, 
and characteristics of superior parents are transmitted to 
their offspring, while inferiors likewise produce inferior 
offspring. Therefore the most ignorant breeder would 
laugh to scorn the advice to improve his breeds by breed- 
ing scrubs, under superior environment, improved housing 
and feeding. He knows that good produces good and 
bad produces bad — it is the universal law. What reason 
therefore is there to believe that man, the noblest of ani- 

228 A Memoir and Letters 

mals, is not governed by the law which governs all else 

There is no reason why this should be believed, but 
men are not governed by reason but by sentiment and preju- 
dice. To procure the assent of the masses to this doctrine 
would be to bring them to agree that strive as they will, 
the low can never equal the high, and not only they, but 
their posterity, are condemned to inferiority. Against such 
a conclusion the underman violently rebels. If a superior 
breed is necessary to perpetuate civilization, then destroy 
civilization; it offers no opportunities and no prizes to 
him. The researches of Darwin established the fact that 
progress is by evolution, controlled by heredity, like pro- 
duces like, the good mated with the good produce off- 
spring reproducing characteristics of the parents. Galton, 
by painstaking and extended investigation and by the col- 
lection of a great mass of statistics, has shown that capacity 
is transmitted and that the families having it are limited. 
Time fails for extended citations, but his researches show 
that the children of distinguished parents become dis- 
tinguished in the proportion of one in four, while the chil- 
dren of the masses reach distinction about one time in four 
thousand; that the children of professional men, teachers, 
ministers and professors enormously excel in intelligence 
those of tradesmen and workers; that intelligence and 
genius are in England a matter largely of family and men 
of genius drawn from a few families. 

The researches of Weissman and De Vries, and many 
others, have established the fact that the life plasm, by which 
life is engendered, as distinguished from body plasm, is 
carefully protected by nature, passed from sire to son, 
fortified and buttressed against disease or toxic poisons or 
physical injury — so that the bearer may be a cripple, dis- 
eased or physically below par, yet will he preserve and 
transmit the life plasm unimpaired, and with it his heredity, 
good or bad. 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 229 

The conclusions above stated have been amply confirmed 
in the United States by the research of Woods, Papenoe 
and Johnson Holmes, the medical staff of the Army and 
Navy, and many others. No matter in what environment 
statistics were collected the result was always the same 
in America as in England. For instance, it was dis- 
covered that the chance of anyone being kin to another 
picked at random is one in 500, while investigation of 3500 
names in "Who's Who in America" showed the chance of 
any one individual therein of kinship to another was one 
in five, but taking the 48 persons in the Hall of Fame the 
chances of kinship were one in two. The instance of the 
Jukes family is classic. Jukes, a vagabond of Northern 
New York in 1720, married a half wit. In 191 5 about 
2600 of his descendants were traced. Generation after 
generation, no matter what change in environment oc- 
curred, the family has produced idiots, lunatics, criminals, 
and prostitutes, tramps and paupers. This family has cost 
the public institutions of charity and justice alone over 
$3,000,000 and is still breeding. On the other hand 1200 
of the descendants of Jonathan Edwards have been identi- 
fied; they have been the elite of their various walks in 
life and of enormous value to the country. It would have 
been an excellent investment to the community to have 
paid Jukes and his wife a million dollars to submit to 
sterilization, or a like sum to endow the union of Jonathan 
Edwards and his wife. 

Senator Beveridge says in his great life of John Marshall 
that there have been identified more than 10,000 descend- 
ants of William Randolph and Mary Isham, his wife; that 
among them have been more individuals of character, tal- 
ent, and usefulness than those sprung from any other couple 
settled in America. Among them are Thomas Jefferson, 
John Marshall, Robert E. Lee, all the Lees, Randolphs, 
Marshalls, and many others. From my own personal 
knowledge I can say that this great stock is still reproduc- 

230 A Memoir and Letters 

ing the virtues of its founders and is of inestimable value 
to the nation. 

Time passes and the mass of data cannot be even referred 
to, but these data exist collected by widespread and minute 
research, in schools, colleges, in the army, the navy, in 
Europe and America. Everywhere the same results ap- 
pear. Capacity is almost uniformly found in the children 
of superiors, lack of it in the children of inferiors. Fur- 
ther, it seems to uniformly appear that high capacity will 
be found in but a few — three or four in a hundred; good 
ability in perhaps 15 to 20 per cent, the remainder grading 
through ordinary, poor, to inferior and utterly incapable. 

Tests of capacity have been made in a number of ways, 
some known as the Binet tests, but whatever tests have 
been applied the results are substantially the same, the able 
are few, and of good heredity. 

During the late war 1,700,000 men in service were care- 
fully submitted to intelligence tests. Four and one-half 
per cent were found to be superior, fifteen per cent good, 
the remainder from ordinary to inferior and totally un- 
teachable. Now these tests have no reference either to 
knowledge or education, but merely to intelligence, capacity 
to learn, not learning. Only 4^ per cent were found 
superior, that is, capable of creditably passing through an 
average college, and fifteen per cent good or capable of 
creditably passing a high school. Almost always it was 
found that superior or good specimens were of good par- 
entage, the mediocre of mediocre parentage, the poor of 

Now it may be doubted whether the Binet or any arbi- 
trary test is demonstrably accurate in all cases. Probably 
in a considerable number of cases any particular test may 
be inaccurate. But when we see various tests applied in 
millions of cases, under widely different circumstances and 
results are substantially the same, demonstration becomes 
almost mathematical. And when we see that heredity gov- 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 231 

erns the progress of every other living creature, does not 
proof become convincing? Besides, our own experience 
teaches the same conclusion. Has not every one of us ob- 
served the almost universal reproduction in progeny of 
the characteristics of parents? Undeniably good environ- 
ment affects the individual favorably. Beyond question an 
inferior who is disciplined, taught, well housed, and sani- 
tary, as compared to a like individual without these ad- 
vantages, should be superior. But these acquired char- 
acteristics will die with him, he cannot transmit them. Nor 
will he ever have high capacity if not born with it. The 
low capacities he has may be improved, but will never 
be brilliant. The stupid by improved environment will 
never become wise, nor the dull geniuses. Individual de- 
fects may be modified but racial capacity cannot be increased 
by the most favorable environment. 

Whether environment or heredity controls racial im- 
provement is a vital question. For if environment im- 
provement is the remedy we should go on as we are now 
doing. If, however, the existence of civilization depends 
upon securing and perpetuating good stocks capable of sus- 
taining it, then our efforts must be directed to discover- 
ing and preserving the fit, and encouraging them to breed. 
If the environmentalist is right, we are on the right path, 
but if he is wrong, we are following the road to racial 
ruin. Can this not be averted? It is not to be supposed 
that a country governed by a substantial majority of un- 
fit will allow to be pressed to its logical conclusions the 
proposition that they are congenitally inferior and their 
progeny doomed to remain so; self-esteem would resent 
and reject so mortifying a conclusion. The underman, 
therefore, will never permit any abatement of the taxation, 
restrictions, or harassments by which he checks and retards 
the reproduction of better breeds. However, much may 
be done without rousing opposition. 

232 A Memoir and Letters 

1. Superior men and women should feel the duty of 
increasing their families. 

2. Birth control may be discouraged in the upper and 
better classes, encouraged in the lower. The state which 
has to support criminals, defectives and inferiors, should 
not be burdened with their children — from generation to 

3. Promiscuous immigration should be ended regardless 
of scarcity or cost of labor. Fortunately the labor unions, 
for selfish reasons, are opposed to further immigration. 
Much has already been done. Every relaxation of the law 
for any reason must be opposed. Particularly at this time 
would Europe and Asia swamp us with their dregs. The 
United States is a nation, not a sewer. Immigration should 
be rigidily selective. Discrimination against any race is 
unnecessary, but only the best of each race selected by test 
should be permitted to enter, though relatives of those 
here now might be permitted to enter, if past breeding. 

4. The marriage of criminals, lunatics, idiots, defectives 
and degenerates should be prevented by restraints or made 
harmless by sterilization. 

5. Our doors should be absolutely shut to the entry ot 
any black, brown or yellow man. 

6. Much might be done in schools to select and classify 
the intelligent, and to promote their education through the 
higher grades, though the demagogues might prevent this. 

It is a remarkable instance of the genius of Thomas 
Jefferson in theoretical politics, or perception of principles, 
and his incapacity in common sense applications, that with- 
out the biological or psychological information we now 
have, his lucid mind perceived the fact that democracies 
are the most complex of political forms and require the 
application of a higher intelligence than any other, in order 
that they may function. He also perceived that the stock 
of intelligence in any society is limited, and must have per- 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 233 

ceived that it is the product of heredity. His belief was 
that without adequate and prepared intelligent leadership 
democracies could not exist. To provide it he proposed 
the following scheme of universal education: State com- 
mon schools for everybody; selection of intelligent indi- 
viduals by tests; promotion of these to a free high school; 
again selection from these by test ; promotion of the chosen 
to a free collegiate institution ; a like selection from that and 
promotion of the survivors to a free State University; 
these few to furnish trained leaders of the democracy. 
Scientifically Mr. Jefferson's scheme was biologically and 
psychologically correct, and it is marvelous that it was 
exactly in accordance with modern discoveries. He rec- 
ognized the principle of improving individuals to the limit 
of their capacities by universal primary education, thus pro- 
viding an environment in which every one may exploit his 
natural intelligence to its limits, but he also recognized 
the law of inequality, that some individuals do not progress 
beyond common, others beyond high schools, others be- 
yond collegiate institutions, and finally, just as has been 
discovered by modern biologists, a very small per cent are 
capable of profiting by higher education, and competent 
to lead. Further, it will be observed that Mr. Jefferson 
as a true democrat observed the sound political and bio- 
logical law that the selection of the best heredity and native 
capacity is not to be confined to aristocracies, privileged 
classes or castes, but should be discovered by passing the 
fine-toothed comb of his educational system through the 
whole mass of the people, finding the good seed, nourish- 
ing it, and causing it to bring forth abundantly. Mr. 
Jefferson's scheme of education was never adopted and 
never will be in any democracy. With his usual incapacity 
in political application Jefferson observed a correct theory, 
which his lucid and vigorous mind grasped with mathe- 
matical accuracy but overlooked in application what he saw 

234 A Memoir and Letters 

clearly in theory. True, innate intelligence is found in 
few and they ought to be educated for leadership, but the 
underman, always in the majority, thinks otherwise : that 
the law of inequality does not exist; if it does exist that 
it ought to be repealed, and if it cannot be repealed, being 
a law of nature, if civilization depends upon its applica- 
tion, destroy civilization. There is nothing in it for the 
underman. Mr. Jefferson's theory was perfect and his 
scheme scientifically correct, but it will never be permitted 
by majorities. 

7. Much can be done by the application of community 
charity and social service as well as by individual benevo- 
lence. These are not publicly controlled, but privately; in 
the main by superiors. Along with the work of every 
charity should go investigative tests and selection. These 
should extend not to the irredeemable sediment of society, 
but to and through every class of decent citizens where 
good heredity and capacity might be discovered, but whose 
circumstances preclude the highest development and educa- 
tion of talented children. These could easily be reached 
by free or assisted education in privately endowed or state 
universities of higher learning and special vocational train- 
ing awarded to those passing specified tests. Charity, in 
the case of the underman and his children, should be 
strictly limited to ministering to his bodily needs and 
physical afflictions. No time or money should be wasted 
in uplifting or educating the inferior man wholesale; it 
cannot be done. In so far as is possible he should be dis- 
couraged from breeding; one way of enforcing this would 
be to cut off relief if he increases his family. I am told 
of families of incapables in Dallas whose existence during 
ten years has depended on charity. Incapable of support- 
ing and properly educating any children at all, under the 
stimulus of doles they have treated themselves to large 
families of hopeless incapables. This should be stopped 

Is Civilization Returning to Barbarism? 235 

short by cutting off the supplies and educating these people 
in birth control. As things are now, each eugenically 
worthless child produced by a pauper is a meal ticket call- 
ing for additional free rations. 

A grave disease afflicts this democracy. The causes are 
manifest to the student, and dimly perceived by many, 
though imperfectly understood. This accounts for the 
violent outbreak of Ku Kluxism, with its religious and 
racial prejudices and attempts to grasp the government for 
native Americans. This movement, though foolishly and 
sometimes criminally directed, is based on the correct but 
dim perception of many, that there is a creeping leprosy in 
the body politic which is growing and spreading. That 
we have ruined our politics and degraded our stock by 
opening the gates to promiscuous, untested and disgenic im- 
migration, which never can be assimilated, not on account 
of particular race, but because to a great extent they are the 
uncivilizable dregs of every race. 

The best eugenic material of the race should be increased 
and encouraged to propagate. Every friend of free in- 
stitutions knows that a higher grade of intelligence is needed 
to carry on representative governments than any other. 
Democracies need good and intelligent citizens and the 
supply of these depends upon a sufficiency of good heredity. 
The supply is now woefully insufficient and is not renew- 
ing itself by birth, while the underman, encouraged by 
doles and exemptions, happy and thriving in an environ- 
ment intolerable to the superior man, breeds as the beetles 
do. No longer are there vigorous tribes of fair-haired 
barbarians whose good new blood refreshed the exhausted 
arteries of the Roman Empire. Our sole resources of re- 
generation are from within. But if remedies are not at 
once applied there is, I believe, nothing which will prevent 
the extinguishment of our civilization and we may take 
our place with the Empires of the past, once sources of 

236 A Memoir and Letters 

light, splendid in the perfection of art, and all the ap- 
pliances of civilized living, now sunk and degraded in their 
own sedimentary mud. Should the day come when we 
permit this paralysis to have its way we may write upon the 
portals of the most hopeful structure ever raised by a 
people to be the heritage and abiding place of freemen. 

"Finis America" 

Mr. Dabney's interest in serious problems did not 
preclude an enjoyment of things of lighter vein. He 
touched, at some point, almost all human interests and 
he was keenly responsive to all original or creative 
effort. Poetry and Art kindled his enthusiasm. 
Music was a passion with him. He had a French- 
man's love for Opera Bouffe, and found such operas 
as Don Pasquale as gay and humorous as one of 
Balzac's Contes Drolatiques; while Madame Butter- 
fly, Rigoletto or Samson and Delilah brought tears of 
emotion to his eyes. What he did not take seriously, 
sometimes tragically, he took humorously, and his 
whimsical comments on things of passing note were a 
constant delight to those who were intimate with him. 
This whimsical quality of his mind was more apparent 
in his conversation than in his letters ; the unexpected 
turn of a phrase, the dry, caustic or witty comment 
characteristic of him but impossible to reproduce. 
Few letters record the years of 1922-23. Only a frag- 
ment or two dashed off hurriedly in the intervals of 
his increasingly busy life. 

Letters 19 19- 1923 237 

To E. Y. C ha pin. 

March 17, 1923. 

Dear Chapin: I'm snatching a few minutes to 
write to you. I had a good trip north to Boston, New 
York, Chicago and Kansas City. Saw the children 
who are well. . . . 

. . . My heart goes out to you in your building 
operations on Signal Mountain, with the noble laborer, 
the honest lumberman, and the upright mechanic rid- 
ing your neck, I suppose you have gnashed your teeth 
till they rattled like castanets. I am with you in your 
affliction, my dear brother. Though not acquiring a 
summer home, purchasing a new automobile has re- 
duced me financially to a fine impalpable dust which 
would pass through a porcelain filter. 

We are having howling march winds and weather 
here lately, but things are beginning to bloom and I 
am cheered by thinking of blackberry time. The crop 
ought to run about fifty gallons to the acre this 
year! ... I am glad to hear Elise is feeling better 
and so energetically tearing up the earth. This is an 
unusually favorable indication. When a woman takes 
her trowel in hand and proceeds to literally disembowel 
the premises a return to "normalcy" is absolutely guar- 
anteed. I have no doubt Eve did this in the garden 
of Eden. . . . Yours with love to all. 


This letter, written in May, 1923, shows a clear in- 
sight into the matter of German psychology and the 
Reparations question. 

238 A Memoir and Letters 

To Charles W. Dabney. 

May, 1923. 

Dear Charles: I am just back from another trip 
to Boston and New York where I had the pleasure of 
having Katherine lunch with me together with Eliza- 
beth and John. They were all well and both house- 
holds getting along famously. I had a very short stay 
there — only two days. 

Your account of Sam's downfall in the conversation 
contest is very amusing. I do not think he was at an 
unfair disadvantage, as in a contest of that kind a 
Dabney is at least double the horse-power (or gas 
power) of anybody else I have ever known, and with 
two able-bodied conversationalists against him it was 
about an even break. 

The business outlook is none too favorable. The 
business men and bankers I talked to think the so- 
called present prosperity is on the wane. The Repub- 
licans are pumping artificial wind into the situation to 
keep things going till the National Election but they 
can't do it. . . . 

The French adventure in the Ruhr has not turned 
out as the English and a lot of our own sentimental 
sapheads predicted. The bulk of the world is now 
convinced that the French course is right and will 
produce results. However, when the Germans make 
up their minds to quit their nonsense and pay, then 
is the time that the terrific struggle is going to begin 
because they have, with worthless money, paid off all 
their internal debts and have transferred the entire 
wealth of Germany from the middle and saving classes 

Letters 19 19- 1923 239 

to the Industrialists who now own Germany absolutely 
with its sixty-five millions as their slaves. In the mean- 
time they have equipped themselves with such a plant 
for production and distribution as the world has never 
seen. And look at England who has the foolish notion 
that she has to restore Germany ; but Germany restored 
will be the Frankenstein which will gobble Great 
Britain up. 

The most dangerous thing about the German people 
is their ability to believe in their masters and to take 
orders. They are like a flock of sheep, but the kind 
of sheep which the French wittily describe as "mou- 
tons enrages." The Germans will fight to the last gate 
to make a settlement as light as possible, but when 
they have reached the end of their rope you will find 
that they can draw on their gold deposits abroad and 
practically discharge the whole thing. I believe they 
could make a cash down payment of forty billion gold 
marks. As they have heretofore made all their pay- 
ments by sale of depreciated bonds to suckers the 
world over, they will make the rest of the world pay 
their indemnity for them by ferocious competition. 

In the meantime the Anglo-Saxon people here and 
in England have settled down through intensive tax- 
ation and other schemes to exhaust and eat up the 
capital they have already accumulated. This move- 
ment is constantly being accelerated and there is con- 
stantly less incentive to the production of capital and 
increase of wealth. . . . 

As to which portrait of our father we shall have 
copied to present to the Presbyterian Theological Sem- 

240 A Memoir and Letters 

inary at Austin, I consider the one in my library the 
finest. I know nowhere a nobler face. With best love. 


Mr. Dabney cried out always against the miscarriage 
of justice. When challenged once as to the wisdom of 
speaking so strongly on subjects which seemed to him 
vital and which often brought criticism upon him from 
those who thought differently, he wrote to his brother : 

Dear Charles: As I see it, the difference between 

optimists like and pessimists, like myself is this — 

the optimist refuses to see or acknowledge scoundrel- 
ism. I have always thought the myth of Goliath in 
the Bible was meant to teach us that though small, 
we ought to vigorously assail without doubting, rul- 
ing, triumphant scoundrelism of seemingly overwhelm- 
ing power and force. David, no doubt, could have 
tried to sidestep or tried pleasing words, to argue 
with Goliath, but instead, he put a small smooth stone 
in his sling and smote him between the eyes. When- 
ever the opportunity arises, I have never hesitated to 
sling such a stone. I have found that it does do good 
in that it arouses the courage in other men to attack 
existing and current evil. 

You will perhaps recollect that our father de- 
nounced evil. Perhaps he did it as vigorously and 
roughly as I do or more so, but every day someone 
tells me that no man in the South ever had such a 
healthy, commanding, invigorating moral influence 

Letters 19 19- 1923 241 

as he, because he dared to assault evil all the time, 
and didn't do it either with pink powder or with a 
cologne spray. 

I think a motto for a man is very well expressed in 
the motto of the old Templars, adopted when they 
were true soldiers of the cross. That motto was "Ut 
leo perstudiatur," which meant, " Smite the lion with 
the edge of the sword everywhere you find him." Of 
course they might have thought it better to put salt 
on his tail. 

Don't you think that if we would all draw the sword 
on scoundrelism and call it scoundrelism, that after a 
while there might be some public sentiment against 
it? . . . 

It was this courage of his convictions, this "smiting 
the lion with the edge of the sword wherever he found 
him," which made him an outstanding character in 
his community and a stimulating example for younger 

A philosopher, he passed through this world lov- 
ing life, fearing not death, and looking forward to 
the hereafter with a serene and quiet faith. In his 
youth he went through all the phases of doubt and 
scepticism which must come to every man who thinks 
things out for himself. Being brought up in an 
atmosphere of the strictest Calvinism where Sunday 
was a day of gloom for the young, his reaction was 
to swing for a time to the other extreme. But deep 
thought and study brought him back to the old Cal- 

242 A Memoir and Letters 

vinistic principles. Discarding their narrowness and 
intolerance, he felt that they were a basis on which 
the rights of man and the freedom of man's soul could 

In the fall of 192 1 Mr. Dabney became a thirty- 
second-degree Mason and from that time was pro- 
foundly interested in Masonry, its philosophy, ethics 
and practical philanthropy. His mind became more 
engrossed with spiritual things, and he spent many 
hours of the night, when troubled with insomnia, in 
the study of comparative religions. Though his views 
were broad, his faith in Christianity was profound. 
Thinking things out through many years he arrived 
at a firm belief in the immortality of the soul, the 
divinity of Christ, and the redemption of man through 
His life and teachings and His death on the Cross. 

A few months before he died he wrote the follow- 
ing hymn, which by request was sung at the fall re- 
union of the Scottish Rite Masons at the cathedral 
in Dallas in 1922. 

Music of Russian National Anthem 

Ancient of days, source of truth and light ineffable, 
"Thou who art and wast and evermore shalt be," 
Resting in the silence, behind the veil invisible 
Through the starlit splendours, we raise our hymn to 

Letters 191 9- 1923 243 

Thou, who by a thought brought forth the world and 

"All there is about us of earth and sea and sky," 
Though Thy name we know not, still we call upon 

Father, Lord, Jehovah, Majesty most high. 

O'er the rolling planets, still Thy hand prevaileth, 
Still Thine eye in mercy regards the sparrow's fall, 
We, Thine erring children, bowing down before Thee, 
Hail Thee, everlasting, glorious All in All. 

Shining through the rosy dawn Thy cross of pain 

Emblem of redemption drawing us to Thee, 
Upward through the seven spheres, far beyond the 

Where in Thy eternal peace our ransomed souls 
shall be. 

Lewis Meriwether Dabney, 


For six years Mr. Dabney had known that his health 
was seriously impaired by hardening of the arteries. 
Physicians, in Cincinnati in 191 7, had warned him 
that he must be careful in exercise and diet and in 
avoiding nervous strain. He realized his condition but 
increasing responsibilities made it almost impossible 
for him to take the care and rest that he needed. He 
hoped to start his son with him in the practice of law 
and then retire and devote his time to writing. His 
sudden death put an end to his hopes of years of quiet 
enjoyment of the fruits of his labors. 

244 A Memoir and Letters 

He was taken ill the first of July, 1923. At that 
time his physicians did not consider his condition suf- 
ficiently serious to send for his daughter, then living 
in New York, or his son who was traveling in 
Europe where his parents expected to join him. On 
the eleventh of July there was a sudden change for 
the worse, and he passed away quickly and peacefully, 
only his wife being with him at the end. His last 
words of consciousness, "Don't be frightened, dear, 
everybody has to face it," evidenced his faith and 
dauntless courage. 

"He passed in his prime, at the zenith of his career 
and his memory will always abide as an American 
gentleman, a worthy descendant of an unbroken line 
of gentlemen whose proudest traditions he left un- 

A letter of farewell written to his wife and chil- 
dren was left with his will. Extracts from this letter, 
written on his return from consultation with phy- 
sicians in Cincinnati, personal though it is, are inserted 
so that in his own words his farewell message may 
be given. 

June 25th, 191 7 

My dearest Wife and Children: I am writing 
today and leave with my will long and tiresome sug- 
gestions about taking care of what you have. Money 
is not everything and greed is the lowest of vices, 
but without honest independence which is founded on 

Letters 19 19- 1923 245 

independent means, there can be no free, ample liv- 
ing, no noble living. Without some independence in 
money matters, life is crushed and starved and 
crippled. One cannot live for the big things, the noble 
things, but must grind and struggle at sordid, routine 
tasks. Keep what you have that you may be free 
spiritually and mentally. For the same reason be 
thrifty, save a little and invest a little all the time. 
How can you give if you have nothing? But these 
things are covered in my other and business letter and 
what I want to say now is more personal and in- 

. . . My dearest children, God knows I have loved 
you too much if possible, for it has made me weak 
about you and no doubt I would have spoiled you if 
you could be spoiled. But in spite of their father's 
foolish fondness, I know my children are and will be 
fine and good and will succeed. There is no differ- 
ence in my heart between my son and my daughter. 
I have loved you both all that is possible. To both of 
you I say, remember your religion, be Christians; 
remember your honor, your upbringing and that you 
have in you the blood of twenty generations of noble 
and upright men and women who have kept the faith 
and their honor bright. Live in kindness and charity 
and friendship with other people. Don't criticize, but 
never descend to what is sordid, mean, sensual, trivial, 
or low just because others do, just because it is the 
custom. God forbid that you should be snobs, the 

246 A Memoir and Letters 

noblest are the simplest and plainest and most chari- 
table always; but in spite of all this chatter about 
democracy, which mostly means commonness, remem- 
ber you were born aristocrats. Live so and die so. 

My son will have a man's work to do in the world. 
He must follow some business or profession. To him 
I say : never from the beginning to the end of his career 
must he descend to the least dishonesty, trickery, or 
unfairness in his dealings with those who trust him. 
. . . My son, be independent of meanness and little- 
ness. Let your integrity be like iron. Be trustworthy 
in every relation of life. If you would help a friend, 
do not endorse his note, but lend or give every cent 
you can afford, and remember that your note is your 
word of honor to pay. Don't borrow unless for dire 
necessities. What you can't earn and pay for, do 

The mere rules of honesty set down in law books 
are not for gentlemen. A gentleman's code and 
a Christian's must be infinitely above the statute books. 
Laws were written by average men for average men's 
observance, containing the small modicum of honesty 
the average man can stomach. If you should ever sink 
to the average you had best hang yourself. But on 
the other hand, if you hold yourself high, men will 
in the long run honor and trust you and God will 
bless you with happiness. . . . My son, take my place 
in the world, live for others, forget self. 

Letters 19 19- 1923 247 

And now, my dearest wife and children, until 
a happy meeting, may God bless you and make His 
face to shine upon you. Farewell, my dearest wife 
and children. I have loved and will love you always, 
in the moment of death, in saecula ssecularum. Your 
devoted husband and father, 

Lewis Meriwether Dabney. 



By L. M. Dabney 
of the Dallas Bar 

Delivered at a Luncheon of the Bar Association of Dallas, 

Nov. 3, 1917. 

Every State in the Union has in some form a law exempting 
from execution for debts a certain amount of property for the 
family, during the life of the husband, or after his death during 
the widowhood of his wife or minority of his children. This 
takes the form either of the exemption of a certain amount in 
money from the proceeds of the sale of the homestead under 
execution, or of the specific homestead property itself. Texas, 
therefore, is not peculiar in exempting the homestead from sale 
under execution for general debts, but has joined all other en- 
lightened commonwealths in enacting into law that high prin- 
ciple of public policy that it is more important to the stability of 
the State and perpetuation of our institutions to maintain a 
home-owning citizenship, to shelter the family and the widow 
and minor children, than to provide for and assure the collection 
of debts. 

I wish it to be understood that it is not the purpose of the 
speaker, nor indeed of any citizen of Texas, to change or weaken 
in any way the provisions securing the homestead, against 
the incursions of creditors or levy of execution. The principles 
which secure the home against execution even from the justest 
obligations are of such high public import, so necessary to the 


250 A Memoir and Letters 

perpetuation of free institutions and of society generally, that 
homestead exemptions have met with almost universal accep- 
tance in the legislation of the several states, and the writer would 
be the first to defend the underlying principles of this law, giv- 
ing it his unqualified approval. 

The object of this paper must not be misconceived. I shall 
neither discuss the law from the standpoint of public policy nor 
that of good morals. Both questions have long been settled by 
an overwhelming public opinion in the wisdom of which I 
fully concur. 

The object of this discussion is to ascertain the operation 
of this exemption as it exists in Texas, with reference to the 
acquisition of homes and its tendency, if any, to perpetuate the 
ownership of homes when acquired. 

The Texas Constitution, Section 50, provides as follows: 

PRETENDED SALES : The homestead of a family shall 
be, and it is hereby protected from forced sale, for the pay- 
ment of all debts except for the purchase money thereof, or 
a part of such purchase money, the taxes due thereon, or for 
work and material used in constructing improvements thereon, 
and in this last case when the work and material are con- 
tracted for in writing, with the consent of the wife given in 
the same manner as is required in making a sale and con- 
veyance of the homestead ; nor shall the owner, if a married 
man, sell the homestead without the consent of the wife, given 
in such manner as may be prescribed by law. No mortgage, 
trust deed, or other lien on the homestead shall ever be valid, 
except for the purchase money therefor, or improvements 
made thereon, as hereinbefore provided, whether such mort- 
gage, or trust deed, or other lien, shall have been created by 
the husband alone, or together with his wife; and all pre- 
tended sales of the homestead involving any condition of 
defeasance shall be void." 

From the above it appears that the Constitution is peculiar in 
that it not only exempts the homestead from forced sale for 
debt, but provides that the owners may not make it the basis of 

Appendices 251 

credit, whatever their necessities, by voluntary encumbrance 
except to pay purchase money or to construct improvements. 

In this Texas is unique. Most of the states in some way or 
another exempt the homestead from seizure under execution. 
Texas alone forbids the owners to encumber it. So far as the 
writer is informed no other community in the world has pro- 
ceeded to this extreme, and indeed it is the peculiar boast of 
Texas that it stands alone in this respect among civilized states. 

The reasons which prevailed with the Convention, which in 
1875 framed our present Constitution, to adopt this innovation 
are found in a report, page 569 of its Journal, which was 
adopted, and which sets forth in language forceful and em- 
phatic the economic ideas of that primitive period, and which 
has often been quoted or amplified with approval by politicians, 
publicists and in decisions by the higher bench. The report is 
as follows: 

"We hold that, after thirty years' experience, the home- 
stead exemption is a principle cherished by the people of 
Texas. We believe it to be of essential value to the state in 
securing an industrious and law-abiding population. Its ori- 
gin in the Constitution of 1845, ^ s very birth, was in the 
noblest sentiment of the human heart. It sought, first, to 
encourage the struggling husband and wife to secure by 
honest industry a homestead, and, when secured, to protect 
the wife and children in their shelter, thus acquired, against 
calamities of whatsoever kind, even the death of the husband 
and father. It has proven a shield to thousands and tens of 
thousands of widowed mothers and their children, and has in 
cases without number saved the fathers of families from abso- 
lute penury. The theory of the homestead exemption is, that 
no one has any right to grant credit to the head of a family 
on the faith of the homestead. The creditor must know that 
is sacred and beyond his reach. Being forewarned, he can- 
not complain. Besides, it is not the policy of Texas to en- 
courage the credit system, which has periodically engulfed in 
disaster almost every state in the South and West. On the 
contrary, sound public policy, based upon demonstrated ex- 
perience, demands that government should rather restrict 

252 A Memoir and Letters 

than encourage the system of credits in the business of 

Such being the case and the principles of homestead exemp- 
tion resting on the highest principles of governmental benefi- 
cence, it follows as a part of the life of the system, that no 
creditor should be allowed, or even tempted, to credit the 
unfortunate or failing husband on the faith of a lien, mort- 
gage, or deed of trust on the homestead. Experience shows 
that, in cases innumerable, unfortunate but honorable hus- 
bands tempt their confiding wives to sign such liens, guaran- 
teeing extravagant interest, and in nine cases out of ten dis- 
appointment and domestic ruin is the result. The essence of 
the exemption being an act of beneficence, we protest against 
its destruction in the only cases where it is a real act of 
protection to the wife and children. 

Beyond all this, we hold as a primary truth of inestimable 
value, that the principle of homestead exemption is the grand- 
est foundation yet conceived upon which to build up in our 
state an industrious, independent, self-sustaining, and land 
holding yeomanry, who shall forever be the great pillars of the 

By the above report our simple forefathers postulated an 
economic theorem, which has since remained in Texas, an un- 
challenged gospel. Not only has there been a general assent to 
the necessity of a broad homestead exemption as a public policy, 
but it has hitherto been unquestioned anywhere that the peculiar 
feature of the Texas Constitution which prevents the encumber- 
ing of the home does in fact tend to facilitate the acquisition 
of homes and their subsequent permanent ownership to a large 
and beneficial degree. If this be true, those who framed the 
Constitution of the state are justified of their political philoso- 
phy and of their works. If it be not true, or rather if it be 
true that this feature of our law tends in a large and increasing 
degree to, first, prevent and retard the acquisition of homes, and 
second, to render their permanent ownership more difficult and 
precarious, then it follows that this particular feature should be 
eliminated. For it is only on the ground that this exemption 
facilitates home-getting and home-keeping that it could be tol- 

Appendices 253 

erated by an honorable community. An exemption of any prop- 
erty whatever from the collection of debt for the mere purpose 
of shielding it against honest claims would be bald villainy. 
Only upon the theory that it is essential to the preservation of 
a home for the family, that fundamental unit of society, will 
it be tolerated. If in fact it be found upon inquiry that the 
provision against encumbering the homestead operates strongly, 
to prevent acquisition of homes and more strongly against their 
continued possession, then the very public policy which moved 
the Constitutional Convention would dictate its repeal. 

The homestead has become in Texas a sacred political fetich, 
one of those catch words classified by Lord Bacon as "Idols," 
which are to be accepted without examination. Its beneficence 
has been for generations asserted and uniformly accepted with 
the same religious fervor as was formerly a belief in witches. 

However, a long and large experience in lines of business 
which constantly brought this question before the writer lead 
him to doubt the economic efficacy of this law. The morality 
of this law has frequently been a subject of debate, as also the 
propriety and equality of some of its provisions, but so far as 
I know the really fundamental questions: Does it work? Does 
it assist in getting homes? Does it preserve them when ac- 
quired? seem never to have been even asked. It is to the 
solution of these questions that I have addressed myself, and 
I advance the following observations for your consideration : 

1 st. The existence of a provision against encumbering the 
homestead, and declaring all liens upon it void, except for pur- 
chase money and improvements, undoubtedly tends to raise the 
general interest rate on all real estate loans. According to my 
experience for many years with clients lending in Texas, and 
also in other prairie states, this difference as against Texas is 
not less than one per cent. This in the long run is a heavy tax 
and burden which puts a serious handicap upon the industries 
of this state. 

The reason of this is, that in other Western states, the only 
investigations to be made upon an application for a loan upon 
real estate, are, first, is the security sufficient? second, is the 
owner's title good? In Texas, in addition to these, the bor- 
rower must, at his peril, by investigation on the ground by well 

254 A Memoir and Letters 

paid experts, ascertain in ordinary loans whether the security 
is the homestead of the borrower, does he now live on it, has 
he formerly lived on it, does he intend to return? If the loan 
is to be made on a homestead for the purpose of renewing pur- 
chase money, then inquiry must be made as to whether the 
transaction is fictitious or bona fide, whether the conveyance 
creating the lien was a genuine sale or colorable only and for 
the purpose of creating a lien on homestead property, and there- 
fore void. If the loan is to renew a lien given for improving 
property, then the lender must, at his peril, ascertain whether 
the lien was given before work was done or material furnished, 
and whether the contract for the improvement was in fact 
substantially complied with. When all these facts are ascer- 
tained by expert investigators advice of expert counsel is re- 
quired to pass upon such facts and, if a loan is accepted, to draw 
the necessary instruments, statements, and affidavits required to 
assure the lender. And if after all this the lender and his 
counsel err the penalty is total loss of security. For every 
commercial risk assumed a premium must be paid, and for these 
risks and expenses, unknown in other states, every man and 
woman in Texas who makes a loan or gets credit pays a pre- 
mium of not less than one per cent per annum. This useless 
tax, paid for the last fifty years, if saved and put out at interest 
would have paid the principal of all then existing debts in the 

But while this exaction has bled and will bleed the State, it 
may not be too much to pay for the blessing of procuring a 
home-owning citizenship, if indeed the law has had such a 
result. Into this we will now inquire. 

2nd. From my own experience of thirty years I have found 
that the fact that our homestead law prevents the encumbering 
of homesteads for general purposes deters many of our most 
farseeing and intelligent citizens from acquiring homes at all. 
Those particularly who are active traders and awake to the 
necessities of business in a very large number of cases refuse 
to buy homes because, as they say, once their funds are tied 
up they are lost as a basis of credit, whatever the emergency, 
and once money is sunk in a home it is impossible to withdraw 
except by sale, often at a heavy loss. Another large class who 

Appendices 255 

have bought and partly paid for homes, seeing that money paid 
for the home is sunk from a business standpoint, deliberately 
decline to pay for their homes, though they actually have the 
money in the bank, preferring to renew the existing purchase 
money lien indefinitely rather than by paying for their homes 
place the capital beyond their reach. I myself have seen hun- 
dreds of such cases, and the gentlemen of the bar here present 
will no doubt recall many from their experience. 

The evil of this is that many of these active men who decline 
to buy or pay for homes on account of this vice in our law are 
overtaken by death or misfortune, their business is left in weak 
hands, a home is never acquired, or the partly paid home is not 
paid for; the result of our Texas law is another homeless family. 

3rd. Another result in the operation of the law, of which I 
have had numerous examples in an extended experience, is as 
follows : The law prevents one who has acquired a home and 
partly paid for it from making his equity therein the basis of 
credit, even for necessaries of life and in the direst emergency, 
while it permits him to sell. This operates most cruelly against 
the struggling home-owner. To illustrate : Texas is a state of 
uncertain seasons, particularly in the Great West. There comes 
a drought, the home-owner is scarcely able to pay interest on 
the purchase money, and has no surplus upon which to live or 
to purchase seeds or supplies for another crop. If not already 
mortgaged, he may tide over one season by borrowing upon his 
stock, implements, and prospective crops. But suppose another 
failure, in whole or in part. Then our Texan is at the end of 
his resources. Were he in Kansas he could go to his local banker 
or merchant and be carried once more by mortgaging the equity 
in his home, for the very few dollars actually necessary to keep 
off starvation. But not so in Texas; his only alternatives are 
starve or sell, and sell under the cruel disadvantage of panic 
prices. The result is another homeless family, wanderers upon 
the face of the earth. Too often utterly discouraged as to 
further efforts, they become tramps or anarchists. 

The operation of this law is the same in the city in times of 
unemployment or panic. The owner of a home partly paid for, 
if he were an inhabitant of Kansas, could make the equity in 
his home the basis of credit with the grocer and butcher until 

256 A Memoir and Letters 

the season of unemployment, sickness, or other calamity passed 
by. In Texas it is quite otherwise. Its boasted humanitarian 
homestead law presents the alternative: sell for nothing or 
starve ; it boots the family into the street. At the present time 
the roads from our drought-stricken West are white with the 
prairie schooners of returning outcasts from homes lost for- 
ever. Could anything be more cruel or more needless? Phi- 
lanthropy, what crimes are committed in thy name ! These re- 
sults make us wonder at the simplicity of our forefathers who 
devised the present Constitution, their utter innocence of knowl- 
edge of economics. With fervid eloquence they denounce the 
very idea of permitting the home-owner, seduced by his desires 
or necessities, to execute a mortgage or conveyance with a 
clause of defeasance. Yet they permit him to execute an abso- 
lute conveyance not subject to defeasance or condition. They 
fear to permit him freedom in encumbering his home, however 
dire the necessity, lest he may waste the loan, but permit, nay 
often force him to sell the fee simple of his home, doing in- 
stantly and directly, in becoming homeless, what they fear to 
permit him to do conditionally and indirectly. 

Though convinced from my own experience that the law in 
question was exerting a steady pressure against home-acquisi- 
tion as well as home-owning, I am aware of the uncertainty of 
inductions from only a limited personal experience. I have 
therefore examined the careful census statistics of the United 
States for the year 1910 and preceding decenniums. In order 
to ascertain whether our peculiar laws have in fact tended to 
produce more home-owning citizens in Texas than in the other 
states not having similar provisions, I have deemed it just to 
make the comparison between Texas and other Prairie states, 
similarly agricultural in character, with the same leading indus- 
tries, having a preponderating rural population, no large cities, 
and no slum population. 

The states selected for comparison are Kansas, Nebraska and 
Iowa ; states whose settlement and development have been con- 
current with that of Texas, with much the same character of 
population. In this comparison Texas should make an excellent 
showing, because Texas has given away homesteads far more 
lavishly than any of them. Beginning by giving a league, more 

Appendices 257 

than 4000 acres, to heads of families emigrating prior to 1836, 
Texas has followed by donations of 1280, 640, 320, and finally 
160 acres to heads of families, not to speak of millions of 
acres in donations and bounties, and more millions of acres of 
school lands and railroad lands sold so cheaply as to amount to 
a donation. In fact it may be said that Texas has almost forced 
a homestead without money or price upon every family willing 
to take it. What are the results? Here they are. According 
to the census report for 19 10, 45% of the families in Texas 
owned a home, and 33% had homes which were paid for. By 
the same census Kansas had 59% of her families home-owning 
and 39% of them owned unencumbered homes. In Nebraska 
60% were home-owners, 40% owned homes free from debt. 
In Iowa 58% owned homes and 38% unencumbered homes. 

Texas being the only one having this boasted advantage of 
our peculiar homestead law, why this difference? Is it because 
Texans are less thrifty, honest and intelligent? We will never 
admit that. Is it because the opportunity for home-owning was 
less here originally? The exact opposite is true. Texas has 
lavished an empire on her settlers with no other condition than 
that they should keep and enjoy it, exempt from debts and 
protected, it was supposed, even against the weakness and 
improvidence of the owners. 

But the worst is yet to come. Examining census reports 
for the years 1910, 1900 and 1890, we find that with each ten- 
year period the percentage of home-owners decreases in Texas, 
as well as the percentage of those holding homes free from debt, 
while in each ten-year period there was as marked and steady 
improvement in all those states instanced above. The con- 
clusion is mathematically certain that some cause of an economic 
nature is working steadily but irresistibly in Texas to extin- 
guish home-owning which is not present in the others mentioned. 
Texas is slowly but surely progressing towards a state of home- 
less helots. Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa are as surely growing 
upward and forward to a home-owning, happy, and contented 
citizenship, as we settle as surely downward towards a com- 
munity of homeless serfs. The condition and prospect revealed 
by the cold facts is politically menacing and economically tends 
to a state made up of millionaire haciendados and pauperized 

258 A Memoir and Letters 

peons. From a humanitarian standpoint the results of this 
tendency, if not arrested, are pitiful beyond expression. 

Considering the fact that advantages are all in our favor in 
climate, soil, variety of crops, and ease of living, what can be 
the cause unless it be our laws? I have already shown how 
these laws operate to force the loss of homes in times of drought 
or unemployment. 

That I have not selected for comparison with Texas states 
possessing peculiar advantages appears from the fact that com- 
parison with the Northwestern or mountain states makes the 
showing still more adverse. It is only when comparison is 
made with the New England states, with their crowded slums 
and abandoned farms, that Texas makes a favorable showing. 
Already the results appear in our political system. Each re- 
curring election shows more and more the preponderating in- 
fluence of an irresponsible and ignorant proletariat and less and 
less the weight of a conservative, state-loving, property-owning 
population. All the evils of the situation are not attributed to 
the homestead law, but much is, and a remedy can be supplied. 
I suggest the following proposed amendment to the Consti- 
tution : 

"Homestead Exemptions; incumbrances; pretended sales: 

"The homestead of the family shall be and is hereby pro- 
tected from forced sale for the payment of all debts except 
for the purchase money thereof, or a part of such purchase 
money, and taxes and assessments due thereon, provided that 
the husband, with the consent of the wife given in same 
manner as is required in making the conveyance of the home- 
stead, may encumber the same for work and material used in 
the improvement thereof, necessary supplies for the family, 
and in the event the homestead is of a rural character, for 
seeds and fertilizers, implements and tools to be used thereon, 
and live stock for the purpose of stocking same, but only 
when contracted for in writing prior to the furnishing of said 
work, material, necessaries, seeds, fertilizers, implements, 
tools, and live stock. Nor shall the owner, if a married man, 
sell the homestead without the consent of the wife, given in 
such manner as may be prescribed by law. No mortgage, 

Appendices 259 

trust deed, or other lien on the homestead shall ever be valid 
except for the purposes hereinbefore provided, whether such 
mortgage trust deed or other lien shall have been created by 
the husband alone, or together with his wife, and all pre- 
tended sales of the homestead involving any condition of 
defeasance shall be void." 

It will be observed that this amendment still forbids the 
borrowing money on the home for general purposes, to pay 
debts already contracted, or for uses which might be called 
speculative. While the amendment frees the homestead as a 
basis of credit for necessary improvements, for fertilizers to 
enrich it, seed to plant it, tools and implements without which 
it would be useless, and necessaries for the family in case of 
that dire necessity which might otherwise force a sale, the owner 
is still well protected against his improvidence and speculative 
tendencies, and he cannot borrow, even for the purposes per- 
mitted, without the consent of his wife, and only to secure ar- 
ticles or supplies designated and specified in advance. Would 
not such an amendment furnish to the home-owner all the pro- 
tection desired without the cramping and destructive results of 
the law as it now is? The subject is one of basic economic, 
political and humanitarian importance. Its reopening for dis- 
cussion will be beneficial if the debate is conducted in a spirit 
of fair inquiry without violent prejudice and blind aversion to 

L. M. Dabney. 



An Address Delivered Before the Critic Club of Dallas, 
January, 1921 

Tyranny, always the same in principle and effect, changes its 
modes and mediums of expression. Growing with power, as it 
always does, it seeks to destroy all general law, as well as 
authority, wherever either interferes with its privileges or 

It is a fundamental, inexorable and indeed necessary law of 
human conduct, which we cannot expect to see changed or modi- 
fied in great measure, that wherever power is acquired by any 
individual, class, or oligarchy, whether minority or majority, it 
will automatically be employed in exploitation of other classes 
or individuals. Indeed the tyranny of masses has usually proven 
more explosive, violent, destructive and unbearable than that of 
classes or individuals, and the proof of this is that reactions 
against the latter have been usually slow in their operation, 
while those against the tyranny of the masses have been prompt 
and decisive. Kings and barons, though tyrants, usually permit 
and sustain many of the forms, functions and ceremonies of 
civilized society while depriving it of its liberty. Brutalized, 
ignorant and besotted mobs usually level all to the ground and 
return to barbarism. 

Modern man, no less than his barbarian ancestor, desires to 
and will, at all costs fulfill his own selfish wishes by exploita- 
tion; the cave man by the use of club or poisoned arrow, the 
civilized man by employment of the machinery of so-called 
democratic government. 

Indeed civilization may be partially defined to be that system 
of society through which man gratifies his desires at the expense 


Appendices 261 

of his fellow-citizen rather by fraud, deception and indirection 
than by direct murderous violence. 

No one knew better these facts of history than the founders 
of this Republic. They were under few illusions as to the un- 
selfishness of human nature; in no sense idealists, they knew 
that man, though aware of the value of organized society and 
its institutions, was, nevertheless, as much as his barbarous an- 
cestor, bent upon gratification of his desires at whatever cost 
to others, and would gratify them unless restrained by checks 
and balances more or less automatic in their operation. Hence, 
our Constitutional Government will prove sane and enduring 
unless folly lead us to abandon its fundamental conceptions. 

While a very small class of men will at all times be governed 
by idealistic principles, actually preferring the general good of 
the mass to the immediate gratification of their own needs and 
desires, and while a majority will occasionally under excep- 
tional stress rise for a moment to a high plane of self-sacrifice, 
these exceptions are but momentary and unimportant. Sane 
political conceptions based upon ordinary experience and the 
facts of history must convince all not living in a world of dreams 
and unrealities that man in the mass always has been, is now, 
and will ever be, moved by his own immediate needs, greeds and 
desires, and will realize them at any cost to his fellows, unless 
inhibited by external and effective restraints. 

It is an inexorable law of human nature, functioning through 
democratic institutions, that classes will continue to attempt sat- 
isfaction of their greeds, at the expense of their fellows, and 
will do so, until the inevitable reaction follows. So we see 
tyranny after tyranny sprout in the political muckheap, come to 
its full poisonous maturity, and be cut down, many, however, 
of these noxious weeds being the cause of bitter injustice, in- 
equality and suffering before they are destroyed. They will 
always be appearing and disappearing, beginning, threatening, 
waxing, pining away, and being eliminated; they will always 
dress themselves in attractive garments, and bestow upon them- 
selves the names of social justice, progress, democracy and the 
like, and will in their turn perish by the functioning of the law 
of equality expressed in the vote of majorities. No mass will 
permit any class to rob it when it knows and feels the robbery. 

262 A Memoir and Letters 

Perhaps the most interesting development of the tendency to 
class exploitations is that of union labor, which has developed 
along classic lines, has caused already the inevitable reaction, 
has reached its apogee and is declining. While union labor 
has but lately expressed its most menacing tendencies, its prin- 
ciples have been the same from its birth. A strict association 
of skilled workmen for the purpose of raising their own wages, 
and working conditions, by the reduction of production through 
shorter hours, and such working rules as will steadily reduce 
output. The system is based upon the economic fallacy that 
reduction of output increases jobs and pay. In other words, 
that enforced famine produces abundance. As man must have 
commodities or perish, when the need becomes extreme others 
will produce if unions won't. We have then an unavoidable 
clash ; on the one hand mankind must supply its wants, on the 
other if all are permitted to work freely, the law of the unions, 
restriction, goes down, and the union with it. Hence, if the 
principle of restriction is to prevail, over the urge of public 
want, it must be backed by force. Strikes without coercion are 
a joke. Labor unionism without force is a farce. Coercion, 
however, is of many kinds : by brute force, under form of laws, 
or by economic pressure. Unionism has accordingly sought its 
ends by all these methods. Threats, violence, picketing, slug- 
ging, boycotting, abuse harder to bear than blows, destruction 
of property, arson, even murder, are the inevitable accompani- 
ment of serious strikes. 

Economic pressure is a familiar weapon ; as examples, see the 
frequent threats to starve the country and throttle trade, by 
violent cessation of transportation, closing of ports, or threats 
to freeze it by stoppage of production of fuel. 

These inconveniences, it is asserted, the whole public must 
suffer, as an incident of one small section securing its alleged 

It is asserted and reiterated that the mass of mankind have 
no rights which they may enforce in these private battles between 
labor and capital, though their very livelihood and liberties are 
at stake, and that any attempt on the part of majorities to re- 
strain or limit the theater of combat, or the manner of its prose- 
cution, is undemocratic, reactionary, unprogressive and destruc- 

Appendices 263 

tive of human freedom. See Mr. Gompers' constant pronounce- 
ments. According to this weird philosophy, majorities have 
no right to control private wars carried on between minorities 
even in the public streets and concerning the public highways, 
that is, it is undemocratic for the majorities to control, though 
their very right to live in comfort or live at all, is concerned. 

These very human tendencies should be neither the occasion 
of hate nor excitement ; they are but natural functioning of 
human appetite, and of a universal law. A working man is a 
man, therefore governed by greeds and lusts, as is a capitalist, 
soldier, statesman or any other man. It is a law of a wolf's life 
to desire mutton, but who ever thought of hating a wolf for 
this? We like mutton ourselves, and therefore, that we may 
gratify our own appetites, it becomes necessary that means be 
taken to restrain the wolf, so there may be enough to go round. 
The working men who exploited the country while undergoing 
the agony of war, by 18,000 strikes, loafing, sabotage, idling on 
the job, reducing production and increasing costs, are no more 
hateful than the profiteer who robbed his country, either by 
rotten work or fraudulent prices. Both are simply men or 
wolves, expressing the law of their being. 

The proper spirit in which the problem should be approached 
is that of philosophic calm and recognition that human nature 
will never change, but that the dominant consideration which 
must prevail is the old law of self-preservation and self-defence. 
No minority class can be permitted to satisfy its appetites at 
the cost of deprivation and suffering to all the rest. 

Exploitation through partial laws has ever been the favored 
method of those who would profit by special privilege. The 
labor unions have not neglected to employ this engine peculiarly 
effective under universal suffrage. The effect of strongly or- 
ganized minorities voting as a unit, and united and inexorable 
in their demands, upon the nerves and actions of office-holders 
and legislators of all kinds is familiar and already noted. We 
have seen so often executive and judicial officers cowering in 
the presence of murder, arson and violence, accompanying 
strikes, that we have ceased to expect execution of the laws. 
Persons threatened immediately hire their own thugs and the 
private war proceeds. 

264 A Memoir and Letters 

In the legislative halls the result is the same, law after law 
to make privilege legal. The state cannot, beyond a limited 
degree, interfere in private contract, but controls its own work 
and that of cities and counties. Hence are laws fixing hours of 
labor on public work, and conditions of labor thereon; in some 
cases, local ordinances giving a special preference to union 
labor. Such legislation when resulting from coercion by min- 
orities, yields to them the taxing power of the state, and enables 
them to collect from the public for their private benefit the 
whole increased cost of public work. The power to tax is 
government, for it is the power to destroy and to rule. It is 
too tremendous an engine of oppression to place in private 

But the most striking illustration of the surrender of the 
power of taxation to labor unions is found in the railways. It 
has been established that these corporations, accepting certain 
franchises and powers from the state, do so subject to right on 
the part of the state to control their exercise. Hence the trans- 
portation companies are subject to practically any regulations 
short of destruction, either by direct legislation or through 
administrative boards. But the public must have transportation 
or starve ; it cannot have it without paying rates and fares. If 
these may be directly fixed by law, here is a ready and direct 
way to tax without any other limit than what the public can 
bear and survive. No one can escape it. It is added to the cost 
of consumption, and every son of Adam must consume or die. 

Let us consider some of these laws. The legislatures have 
passed scores of them — typical are full crew laws, laws limiting 
size of trains and fixing larger crews in proportion, laws fixing 
conditions of labor, and the like. All intended to increase 
employment and wages and to decrease production per hand. 
Under pretence of exercising the police power for the public 
safety, we see a full crew bill put through, under which an 
engine and caboose must be manned by two brakemen, a con- 
ductor, and engineer and fireman, and their wages must be 
paid and are paid by the women and children who bend their 
backs in cotton fields as they roll by. 

The so-called Adamson bill was, however, the climax and 
fitting cap-stone upon the whole. We remember how it was 

Appendices 265 

forced on Congress by political threats and threats of stopping 
the use of the public highways, that is, threats of starvation. 
We saw the heads of the railroad unions with their feet on the 
necks of an abject Congress, whip in hand, while an eager Presi- 
dent, having in view an approaching election, bent his back to do 
their bidding, even signing the bill on Sunday, his masters re- 
fusing permission to wait till Monday. 

This, the most degrading act of cowardice ever witnessed 
by a free people, fixed hours of labor on railroads at eight, 
directly forced high overtime wages for excess, and taxed the 
additional burden upon the whole public. 

But the effect of taxation by unions is best illustrated by 
cold figures. 

First briefly as to the United States. 

On Class 1 — roads alone, those having $1,000,000 gross rev- 
enue, the Adamson Act passed in 

191 7 increased wages $61,000,000 

1918-19 General Order No. 2j . . 965,000,000 

1920 U. S. R. R. Labor Board. . 617,000,000 

1920 U. S. R. R. Labor Board. . 338,000,000 

Total increases $2,201,000,000 

In 19 1 7 the total wages paid on Class 1 roads were 
$1,739,482,142. Thus it will be seen that wages are to-day 
125% greater than in 1917. 

But let us present the concrete result of the raid made upon 
the people of Texas alone, that comes nearer and is more vital. 

Total wages paid in Texas by railroads 

In 1917 were $5 1 > 1 97>394-i9 

In 19 1 8 result Adamson Tax the 

increase was 6,502,069.00 

1918-19 General Order 27 and 

supplements 37,015,113.00 

1920 U. S. R. R. Board 20,837,942.00 

Total $115,552,518.19 

Percentage of increase 125. 

266 A Memoir and Letters 

Now to bring out certain salient facts, in 19 17 the people of 
Texas paid for Ry. labor $51,197,394.19; in 1920 they paid ap- 
proximately $116,218,084.00 

The railway unions will collect from the people of these 
United States next year approximately the same as will be re- 
quired for the total expenses of government, including expenses 
of operating our departments, interest and sinking fund on the 
public debt, the army, navy and pension list ; one-fourth of this 
at the least will be pure plunder. But the railway unions are 
not satisfied. 

At present the program is : 

1. Increased wages. 

2. Retention of rules of employment forced on railways dur- 
ing government control, lessening output, destroying discipline 
and in fact vesting management and discipline in the employees, 
or rather in the National Labor Unions through a National 
Adjustment Board. 

3. Scarcely concealed plans, as soon as the railways are 
dominated by the unions as a national unit, to force great 
industries such as the Steel Companies to unionize and submit 
to union extortion. Once railways are under Soviet manage-' 
ment, strikes will be called in basic industries, and if owners do 
not yield, then transportation of the whole country to be shut 
off and the country starved into submission. 

4. Maintenance and increase of present wages, retention of 
unions of their taxing powers through railroad rates and exten- 
sion of the same principle to all basic industry. 

5. Soviet control of the state through control of industries; 
death to democracy. 

This paper might be much extended, reference might be made 
to legislation such as the Clayton Act, applying to employees, 
different rules from others, in the matter of injunction, but 
enough has been said to illustrate the rise and progress of the 
newest tyranny and its success in intrenching itself in special 
law and special privilege, through force and coercion and 
through political pressure upon lawmakers and officials. 

Great plunder has been gathered in by these methods, and in 

Appendices 267 

doing so, the war cries and shibboleths of democracy have been 
freely used ; this pure class exploitation has been called democ- 
racy and many have been deceived thereby. Every special 
privilege achieved or sought has been labeled democratic, 
humanitarian and the like. But arbitrary power vested in a 
few men is always abused and the people during the war 
learned the nature of the democracy and humanitarianism of 
organized labor. Besides this the experience of Russia is an 
object lesson which cannot be overlooked. The fangs of the 
wolf are quite visible under the sheepskin. As a result the 
majority is at least partially awake to the raid upon its pocket 
and its liberties. 

Hence the tremendous growth of the open shop movement as 
in our own city. Hence the passage of the Port bill in Texas, 
making it a penal offense to either use force to suspend trans- 
portation or conspire to use it. Hence the provision against 
strikes in the Esch Cummins bill and provisions for local adjust- 
ment of difficulties. The tendency now seems strong toward 
correction of this new tyranny, for the public is at last awake 
to its purposes and its consequences, and that in itself brings 
the remedy. 

Unless the aroused Americanism of the country is directed 
from what seems its present tendency, it is likely legislation may 
take the following course : 

Strikes by government employees shall be unlawful. Those 
who enter the service of the state or a municipality like soldiers 
surrender the right to strike, while retaining freedom of action 
as individuals in keeping or leaving public employment. 

Public service corporations, notably transportation com- 
panies, being impressed with a public use and subject to regula- 
tion as to wages, operation and conditions of employment, it 
follows the state can regulate the conditions under which men 
may work, and as an incident regulate and suppress strikes, 
though individual freedom to accept or reject employment is to 
be strictly maintained and collective bargaining between em- 
ployees and employer preserved. 

While employment in other than public service can only be 
regulated by law, no employee and no employer shall be per- 
mitted to use against each other force, intimidation, the black- 

268 A Memoir and Letters 

list or boycott. Men shall be free in their legal right to employ 
whom they please, to work for and with whom they please or to 
abandon such employment either as individuals or en masse. 
The right of contract and of free bargaining shall be conserved 
but in the exercise of these legal rights no men nor set of men 
shall injure any other in his person or estate nor conspire to 
do so. 

As already emphasized Democracy contains remedies for its 
own ills and aside from what may properly be accomplished 
by law much will be done to counterbalance organization of one 
class by organization of others. 

The laborers' union is met by the employees' open shop. The 
labor lobby, bullying legislatures, is already considerably neu- 
tralized by the counter bullying of farmers' associations, mer- 
chants' associations, manufacturers' associations and the like, all 
of whom are now on the job. 

The pendulum having swung too far in one direction must 
and will swing back. Whatever may be the case in foreign lands 
in America industries and classes are too varied, too well bal- 
anced, for anyone to permanently lord it over the lives and 
fortunes of all the others, unless indeed we deliberately aban- 
don those republican institutions bequeathed to us by our 

Of this there is, I believe, small fear. Late political events 
have shown that our ancient liberties are deeply cherished and 
profoundly venerated. May they flourish forever. 



Lewis M. Dabney died at Dallas, Texas, at the age of 57 
years, on July 11, 1923, following a brief illness. At the time 
of his death he was head of the law firm of Dabney, Goggans 
& Ritchie, and was President of the Realty Trust Company. 
He is survived by his wife and their two children, Elizabeth 
Carrington Baker and Lewis M. Dabney, Jr. 

Mr. Dabney was a descendant of one of the oldest and most 
distinguished families of Virginia. His father, the Reverend 
Robert L. Dabney, was a widely known Presbyterian minister, 
educator and author, one of the professors of the Union Theo- 
logical Seminary in Virginia, and later a member of the original 
faculty of the University of Texas. 

Mr. Dabney was born at Hampden-Sidney, Virginia, August 
11, 1865, and attended Hampden-Sidney College, graduating in 
1883. In the same year he entered the University of Texas 
and graduated from the law department of this institution in the 
class of 1887. 

In 1888 he established his home in Dallas and began the prac- 
tice of law, which he successfully and actively practiced until 
his death. 

His death came as a profound shock and grief to his brethren 
of this bar. Engaged as he had been during all the creative 
period of his life as our co-practitioner and fellow-citizen, his 
talents, learning and character had marked him as one of the 
leaders of our profession. 

In the fullest acceptance of the terms he was a gentleman, a 
good citizen, a fine lawyer, a loyal friend and a good husband 
and father. 

His devotion to high convictions and ideals distinguished 
him. He was a man of great intellect and moral strength. He 
was a valuable member of our community. 


270 A Memoir and Letters 

His professional life and experience was cast along creative 
lines. Probably the most valuable professional service he ren- 
dered to the state was in connection with the law of street 
improvements. Largely through his efforts in this direction he 
has made such improvements legally possible. 

His death is a loss to our profession and community. 
Therefore, be it 

Resolved: That in the death of Lewis M. Dabney, our citi- 
zenship and profession are deprived of the presence and in- 
fluence of one who has labored worthily and well for the ad- 
vancement of his profession, community and state. He will 
live long in our memories, and his work will survive. after we, 
his friends, have passed beyond. We join with his family in 
their grief and bereavement, and extend to them our deepest 
and sincerest condolence and sympathy. And, 

Resolved : That a copy of this resolution be transmitted to 
his family. 

Henry C. Coke, 
Lynn B. Milam, 
W. R. Harris, 
E. M. Baker, 



We deeply regreat to announce the death, at his home in 
Dallas, Texas, on July nth, of Lewis M. Dabney. Mr. Dabney, 
one of the leading counsel of Dallas, was the first citizen of that 
state to appreciate the advantages and to become associated with 
the development of Warren Pavements in the year 1906. He be- 
came Vice-President and General Counsel of the subsequently 
organized Texas Bitulithic Company and largely to his keen 
legal ability, advice, and executive management, the success of 
our pavement in Texas is fairly credited. 

The directors of Warren Brothers Company of Boston, at 
a meeting on July 12, 1923, passed the following resolution: 

"The directors of Warren Brothers Company are shocked to 
learn of the sudden death, at his home in Dallas, Texas, of Lewis 

Appendices 271 

M. Dabney, Vice-President and General Counsel of the Texas 
Bitulithic Company. Mr. Dabney was one of the first citizens 
of Texas to become associated with us and constant association 
during the intervening seventeen years has resulted in our heart- 
felt affection for him and appreciation of his great ability and 
integrity. We have lost one of our most valued business asso- 
cates, counsel and friend. 

Resolved : That we communicate to Mr. Dabney's family and 
to the Texas Bitulithic Company our deep personal and cor- 
porate loss and sympathy with them. 


Dallas, Texas, 
November 23rd, 1923. 
To the Directors of the 
Texas Bitulithic Company : 

Your committee herewith presents the following resolutions : 
Death having ended, before its allotted time, the life of our 
associate, Lewis M. Dabney, Vice-President and General Coun- 
sel of the Texas Bitulithic Company, be it 

Resolved: that we mourn the loss of our friend, to whose 
wise counsel, faithful service and untiring efforts are princi- 
pally due the upbuilding and successful operation of this com- 
pany. His place among us cannot be filled. 

Resolved Further: that we tender to his family our sin- 
cere sympathy, and that in testimony thereof and of our esteem 
and sorrow, these resolutions be spread on the minutes of this 
company and a copy be sent to the family. 

H. G. Goggans, 
Adam Thompson, 
R. W. Wortham, 



At a meeting of the Directors of The Realty Trust Com- 
pany held July 23rd, 1923, the following resolutions were 
unanimously adopted by a rising vote. 

2J2 A Memoir and Letters 

Whereas, Lewis Meriwether Dabney, President of The 
Realty Trust Company from its incorporation, died at Dallas, 
Texas, July nth, 1923, and 

Whereas, in his passing we have lost the guiding hand and 
genius through whose efforts this company was not only organ- 
ized but expanded and developed into its present state of 
strength and usefulness, and 

Whereas, his death causes a great loss not only to his asso- 
ciates in this company, but to the many friends whom he drew 
closely to him by his unusual strength of mind, conscientious 
integrity, and executive ability combined with cheerfulness of 
disposition, and 

Whereas, his many qualities have won for him our esteem, 
admiration, and confidence, 


That the directors of The Realty Trust Company hereby 
express the high estimation we have long held of Mr. Dabney's 
character as a business man and lawyer, our love of him as a 
friend, and the sorrow born in our hearts at his death. En- 
deared to us by his unfailing activities in behalf of his friends, 
his breadth of mind, his sweetness of temper, he will be long 
remembered not only by his associates and hosts of friends, but 
by all the citizens of this State. In him we have lost a loyal 
citizen, an inspiring associate, and a loving friend. 


That engrossed copies of these resolutions be sent to his be- 
reaved family to whom we extend our heartfelt sympathy in 
this bitter hour, and to the press, that a copy thereof be hung 
on the walls of the offices of this company and that the same 
be placed in the minutes of this corporation. 

Committee of Directors, 

C. W. Hobson, 
W. Frank Knox, 
Louis Lipsitz, 
Walter S. Crane. 

Appendices 273 


... In 1887 Mr. Dabney settled in Dallas where he spent 
the remainder of his life, steadily rising from year to year 
to a high professional position. . . . 

Equipped with extraordinary intellectual vigor and great 
powers of concentration he worked with a rapidity and ease 
which astonished those who only knew him casually. He read 
much ; he wrote clearly ; in professional speaking he was con- 
cise and analytical with a humor which illuminated and drove 
home the force of his argument. . . . 

He was kindly and charitable in his relations. His easy 
manners and accessibility made him at home with all men, for 
intellectual ability joined to humor and humanity are the 
greatest foundations of sound influence. In the circles in which 
he moved no man in the state made a more vivid impression 
nor was more highly esteemed. 

A loved husband, father and brother, death has all too soon 
removed him from the scene. That the family has lost the 
living with such a man is a loss indeed. . . . 


On July nth, 1923, the Critic Club suffered a great be- 
reavement in the passing of Lewis Meriwether Dabney who was 
a charter member and one of the most faithful, valuable, and 
interesting members of the Club. 

With the public, we have admired the brilliant lawyer and 
his splendid achievements, but we have loved the man, Lewis 
Dabney, for the fine qualities of his mind and heart which were 
revealed in the intimate contact with him in the meetings of this 
Club ofttimes held in his hospitable home. 

Mr. Dabney, an illustrious member of an old and prominent 
Virginia family, was liberally trained in youth, but his educa- 
tional and cultural development knew no halt. He was always 
an industrious student and original thinker. He possessed rare 
intellectual gifts, a charming personality, high character, the 
power to express his thoughts clearly, and a fine sense of humor 

274 A Memoir and Letters 

that enabled him to announce views and relate facts interest- 
ingly and effectively. 

Believing firmly in the virtue of individual effort, Mr. Dabney 
had small liking for those innovations in government that stifle 
individual endeavor, but the adoption of such innovations made 
him neither cynical nor unhappy. He continued to love his 
country, his government, and his fellowman. 

Wedded to the thought of a government of law, he long be- 
lieved that the practice of law and the judicial machinery were 
in maladjustment. Nor did he leave it to conjecture as to 
what he regarded the facts to be or what remedies he would 
apply. An address entitled "Pleading and Practice in the Land 
of Canaan" made by him at a meeting of the Bar Association a 
dozen years ago, remains a classic in the literature of Texas. 
Mr. Dabney practiced as he preached. Knowing the delays of 
the law and the uncertainty of results in the courts, he sought 
to reach adjustments for his clients without litigation and in 
this he was highly successful. Learned in the law, possessed of 
a strong and alert mind, he marshalled and weighed facts, ap- 
plied them to the law and then, animated by a sense of justice 
and fair-dealing, he presented his cases so clearly as to carry 

The facts of his professional career are known to many who 
had business relations with Mr. Dabney. But it was the Lewis 
Dabney in other roles that we knew more intimately. We 
knew him in his club and in his home. We knew his friendship 
and his scholarship. We were privileged to have a place in his 
big heart, to imbibe wisdom from him to profit from his re- 
searches and his original thinking, to listen to his quaint and 
clear exposition of vexed problems, to have had a share in the 
life of this cultured and intellectual gentleman, who revered his 
God and was charitable and kind to his fellowman, and always 

Joined in grief with Mrs. Dabney and her son and her daugh- 
ter, the members of the Critic Club find comfort in golden 
memories of our association with Lewis Dabney and in the 
knowledge that his works live after him. 

Thomas Finty, Jr., 
J. K. Hexter. 

Appendices 275 

The foregoing memorial was unanimously adopted by the 
Critic Club November 26, 1923. 

George B. Dealey, Secretary. 




Lewis Meriwether Dabney, a Virginian by birth and a 
Texan by adoption, died at his home in Dallas on Wednesday, 
July nth, 1923. 

His earlier years in Texas were spent at Austin but he re- 
moved to Dallas in the year 1888 and began the practice of law. 

The Dallas of that day was still close to the frontier. Its 
wealth was still in the soil ; its finer civilization in embryo. Mr. 
Dabney brought to the home of his adoption a brilliant mind 
and a constructive imagination. A student and builder from his 
earliest manhood, he put the force of his enthusiasm behind the 
city's progress and was foremost in bringing about its growth, 
not merely in a material sense, though his contribution to the 
growth of its wealth and industry was notable; but he helped 
yet more the intellectual development of Dallas, helped to plant 
and tend the highest amenities of her social life, and to develop 
culture in literature, music and art. 

His quick mind perceived opportunity ; his generous hand was 
quick to forward it; his tenacious purpose never wavered short 
of accomplishment. His friends well remember his intellectual 
enthusiasm. The contagion which spread from it radiated to 
every corner of Dallas where books, music, or pictures are loved. 

Forceful as a writer, entertaining as a speaker, Mr. Dabney 
was fascinating as a conversationalist. His mind grasped those 
phases of things which are obscure to many. He had the faculty 
of revealing them to others. Shadows cleared tinder the rays of 
his searching intellect. He saw things sanely ; he revealed them 
convincingly. It was a liberal education to associate with him. 
Kindly, generous, he gave freely of his intellectual endowment 
and loved to share his enjoyment. 

276 A Memoir and Letters 

His convictions upon matters of public interest were clear-cut, 
and his expression of them was convincing. In consequence his 
influence was felt in public affairs. He was among the first of 
our citizens to see the inevitable attitude of our country toward 
the World War ; from the beginning, while others sought to 
avoid, he sought to prepare for the conflict. His attitude toward 
the public affairs of Texas was equally discerning and was 
always expressed with force. . . . 

. . . Married in 1895 to Stella, daughter of Captain Joseph 
C. Hutcheson of Houston, the domestic side of Mr. Dabney's 
life was peculiarly attractive. Congenial in taste and comple- 
menting each other in talent, their home became a seat of in- 
tellectual pleasure and cultivation, in which their children, Eliza- 
beth and Lewis, were equipped to share. It was a privilege to 
join its circle and to taste its hospitality even for a night. 

He passed in the prime of life, his faculties unimpaired; his 
mind alert and keen ; his sympathies acute ; his heart warm with 
kindliness ; his hand strong in helpfulness. He leaves a mark of 
success and high honor in his profession which any member of it 
might emulate, a place in the heart of friends which the best of 
us might envy. He went from us at the zenith of a successful 
life. He will be remembered, 


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